The National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is working with various medical councils to introduce concepts such as rising heat and damaging air quality and their effects in medical education and the training of medical personnel in India.
The NCDC has roped in the National Medical Council, the dental council, Ayush, the nursing council and the pharmacy council, among others, for this purpose. Medical schools will also have to teach students about environmental health – a decades-old plea that has unfortunately been ignored so far.
“Today, a patient is asked if he smokes or consumes alcohol. There is nothing to relate his ill-health to external environmental factors. Our goal is to address the reality that our altering climatic conditions are affecting people’s health, and our medical professionals need to recognise this,” said an officer from NCDC’s Centre for Environmental & Occupational Health, Climate Change and Health. “…We can’t side-line the need to train our students to think about the impact of polluted environment on the human body.”
Experts at the two-day-long national workshop on heat wave 2023 at IIT Bombay that concluded on Tuesday gave example of the Ahmedabad model in this context. Last year, Ahmedabad became the first city in India to develop a ‘health action plan’, which includes an early warning system and a preparedness plan.
Highlighting the Ahmedabad model, Mahaveer Golechha, associate professor at the Indian Institute of Public Health, Gandhinagar, said while looking at the all-causes mortality data, public health researchers found a rise in deaths in May. “Why does India not have a system of putting up its IPD and OPD data of hospitals? Unless we acknowledge the reality that climate change is affecting the health of our population, we can’t devise corrective steps,” said Golechha, who rued the fact that there is no system in India to report heat-related deaths.
Experts at the workshop acknowledged that the intensity of heat waves would increase and it was important to reduce its impact on health, the ecology and the economy. “There is no hiding from the fact that India is going to be the worst affected in the world,” said National Disaster Management Authority joint secretary Kunal Satyarthi.
Former DG-IMD Ajit Tyagi said 2022 was a “red-flag year” as every part was affected by global warming.