Even slum dwellers suffer from diseases of the rich

Even slum dwellers suffer from diseases of the rich

Lifestyle disorders such as diabetes and hypertension affect people in slums due to work stress

A recent survey by the Directorate of Health Services of the Delhi government found that the slums are no more untouched by the diseases of the ‘rich’. Lifestyle diseases such as hypertension and diabetes are spreading fast among the poor.

At least 20 per cent of the slum dwellers screened by the DHS were found to be suffering from hypertension, and 10 per cent from diabetes.

“Urban lifestyle does not impact only the rich; it affects the poor too. Stress levels at work are high for services performed by slum dwellers, leading to hypertension. Fast food items such as burgers are available at roadside stalls, resulting in diabetes,” said DHS director Dr N V Kamat.

However, a senior official in the union health ministry said the main issues in urban slums have not changed, with communicable diseases and illness due to bad drainage being the usual culprits.

“The Capital’s drainage system is arbitrary. The state government has finally decided to consult the Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi, to put its drainage system in place.  But till now overflowing drains have been a major cause of disease in the poorer sections of the city,” the official said.

Slum dwellers say they face severe health issues, mostly during monsoon when open drains flow into and outside their shanties and kuchha houses. They are often inflicted with diseases such as malaria, jaundice, skin allergies, cough and cold. Weakness and nausea in summer are common complaints.

“The sewage tank of public toilets in my locality was filled up two years ago. But it has not been cleaned. All the excreta and other filth from the toilets is overflowing into the residential area,” said Madhu Rani, a slum dweller in Jahangirpuri. She said children play in this water and fall ill.

According to a political activist, children catch tuberculosis due to a dirty environment. “Though I cannot give exact figures, TB is rising in the city,” he said.
Medical aid is also not easily available, especially for lactating and pregnant women.

Babu Jagjivan Ram Hospital, a 100-bed facility run by the state government for secondary care in Jahangirpuri, does not have facilities to perform surgeries in cases of complication during pregnancy and delivery.

“The problem is that we are ready to put money, not brains, behind schemes,” said M K Bhan, secretary of biotechnology department with the union science and technology ministry.

“An AASHA (accredited social health activist) worker has been given the responsibility to educate women in a given area. What is not considered is the timing of buses plying on the road leading to her area, and whether she can manage transport on her own,” Bhan said.

“I think they should be provided transport if we want this scheme to work. There are many such issues one needs to consider  while formulating public policy for community health,” said Bhan.

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