Soumyadeep Bhaumik’s review of Indian medical papers—16 July 2013

soumyadeepbhaumikA sudden burst of massive untimely rainfall and the consequent floods in Uttarkhand last month has killed thousands of people and affected millions more. The good news is that there have been no public health disasters, fingers crossed not yet at least. The Uttarakhand floods remind us that the issue of climate change is having an impact on us now. The urgent need to tame global warming to protect the fragile Himalayan ecology is now apparent.  Global warming will only be accompanied by an increased frequency and intensity of such extreme events, as well as severe heat waves, heavy rainfall, storms, and coastal flooding. A recent BMJ blog asked whether doctors should worry about climate change. The answer should be “yes.” Such extreme events add to the already existing mortality and morbidity of the population, and as doctors we should fight vehemently to curb the figures in all ways possible.

Talking of disasters, the financial sector in India has been hit and one of the factors economists have blamed is the nation’s obsession with gold jewellery. That brings us straight to a study published in the journal Thorax, which found that jewellery workers heavily exposed to cadmium “experienced frequent respiratory symptoms and manifested a marked deficit in lung function, demonstrating a strong response to Cadmium exposure.” With most such jewellery, workers have no or minimal protective measures to safeguard themselves. The study only means that it is time that the government look in to other aspects of the jewellery industry too.

A study in the Journal of Global Health finds that caregivers of children “typically ranked antibiotics ahead of oral rehydration salts (ORS) as the strongest medicine for diarrhoea.” 62% of caregivers in India believed antibiotics were the first choice for treatment. Coming after decades of vehement ORS advocacy, this only makes me depressed.  Talking about depression, an Indian Journal of Medical Research study identified a subset of health university students “with low quality of life in emotional domain,” which could be predicted by their current analgesic use and possible overweight problems.

An important study in Plos One confirms my long term suspicion that the high institutional birth proportions achieved on account of the government’s Janani Suraksha Yojana (which promises cash to mothers for institutional deliveries)  are inadequate at reducing the maternal mortality rate. The study noted that, “other factors including improved quality of care at institutions are required for intended effect.” But with institutions getting overloaded on account of the programme how can quality of care improve?

And finally the National Medical Journal of India reports that there was no statistical difference between the testosterone levels of surgeons and non-surgeons. The study is a must read for those aiming to break into the BMJ‘s Christmas issue.

Soumyadeep Bhaumik is a medical doctor and independent medical researcher from Kolkata, India. He freelances for various national and international medical journals. Twitter@DrSoumyadeepB

Competing interests:  I have read and understood the BMJ Group policy on declaration of interests and declare that I have served a paid editor position in an Indian medical journal before and freelances for various national and international medical journals. No other relevant conflicts of interests.