Inter State Doctors Panel discussion on the occasion of World Health day

  Kolkata: Inter State Doctors and Civil Society Organizations came together at a webinar organized by SwitchON Foundation, to create awareness amongst common citizens about the deteriorating health condition due to the increasing air pollution, and identify solutions to lead a healthy lifestyle. The webinar highlighted the negative impacts of inequities on health and well-being, social and economic development, and the advantages of improving health for all through better and more equitable health services in Bengal, Jharkhand and Odisha. A panel discussion followed by a training session was organized as a part of the virtual event. 

India has ranked 8th in the global list of countries with the most hazardous air quality and hosts 12 of the 15 most polluted cities from Central and South Asia' (The 2022 World Air Quality Report)It has been observed over the years that though air pollution affects all but some people are more susceptible than others like children, older people, pregnant women, and people with pre existing heart and lung disease.

The virtual event was attended by distinguished experts like Pulomonologists, Oncologists and pediatricians from West Bengal , Odisha and Jharkhand who were highlighting the effect of air pollution on the vulnerable section of society. Leading organizations and their volunteers joined the training program conducted by distinguished doctors to understand the current situation of the impact of air Pollution on health.

Dr. Arup Haldar, Consultant Pulmonologist from Woodlands Multispeciality Hospital attending the webinar stated, “From a given amount of exposure, the children are at a higher risk as they breathe deep and fast. Sensitive individuals should consider limiting prolonged outdoor exertion.”

Dr. Soirindhri Banerjee, Resident, Radiation Oncology from IPGME&R & SSKM Hospital, Kolkata said, Air pollution is associated with a broad spectrum of acute and chronic illnesses, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cardiovascular diseases and cancer. The ever increasing trend of AQI levels poses a major threat to the vulnerable communities like the children and old aged people.

The webinar was registered and viewed by a large number of people including civil society organizations, youth groups, health professionals, media, and other stakeholders. Some of the NGO’s attending the webinar from West Bengal were NIFAA, Durgapur Sub-divisional Sports and Cultural Society and Palla Road Pallymangal Samity.

Talking about the issue, Dr Kaustav Choudhury, Pediatric Consultant from Apollo Gleneagles Hospital said, “Children are the most vulnerable communities that are majorly affected by air pollution. They are at a growing stage of different organs, starting from fetal life to childhood. In the first 5 years of age, their immunity is also matured. So air pollutants and air borne infection damages vital organs like Lungs. This could cause stunted lung growth with a  higher risk of chronic respiratory ailments with long term sequelae.”

Concluding the whole event, Vinay Jaju, Managing director of SwitchON Foundation said, “Air Pollution is the biggest threat to the health of humans, our survey also shows  people are very concerned about air pollution. That is why on this global health day, we have connected leading doctors and ngos to make public aware of the dangerous health effects due to the rise of pollutants and collectively take urgent action along with government agencies.”

As per the 2022 World Air Quality Report released by IQAir, India ranks 8th most polluted country in the world. As per the report the average PM2.5 level in India in 2022 was 53.3pg/m3 which exceeds the WHO PM2.5 guideline by over 10 times.

SwitchON Foundation also revealed a study at the webinar, based on a public perception study of human health in West Bengal. The idea was to get a better understanding about the awareness and sensitivity of people regarding air pollution in West Bengal.

The study found that a majority of respondents i.e almost 80% of the residents of Kolkata said that air pollution is causing a severe threat to human health, in contrast to 72% of respondents across Bengal. Talking about the three major sources of air pollution, 90% of respondents of West Bengal, and 94% of respondents of Kolkata said vehicular emissions are the major pollution-causing factor, followed by industries and open waste burning.

In a health camp conducted by SwitchON Foundation in Kolkata city, to try to understand about the major illness that they have, it was found that around 60% respondents said that they suffer from respiratory illness. The most common symptom reported was sneezing, followed by cough, nasal congestion, and sore throat.

The study reveals that the respondents expressed their opinion of actively promoting cycling, walking, carpooling, and shifting to electric vehicles as measures to control air pollution. The respondents want the government to create walking zones and cycling paths on the roads for active promotion of cycling and walking so that people cycle for livelihood and not for lifestyle.

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