Swine Flu in India and state of Information Propogation (E-Initiative)

So it’s official that Swine Flu has reached India’s shore – what’s really sad to note is that Indian govt’s lack of initiative towards educating citizens on Swine flu symptoms/precautions etc.

Let me start off with a small observation about Swine Flu – and how its being tackled by the ever “respectable” authorities inside the country.

Here are some facts :
1) Search for “Swine Flu Govt of USA” on google search – the first result points to “http://www.pandemicflu.gov/”
2) Search for “Health Ministry Ireland Swine Flu” on google search – the first result points to “http://www.dhsspsni.gov.uk/”
3) Search for “Swine Flu Govt of India” – the first page fails to point to any page hosted by the Government of India (rather it takes you to all the news sites).

The information presented so far might make the readers believe that there is no such initiative being taken by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW). Well, that’s not the case. You can find the specific page here – Swine Flu at MoHFW.

H1N1 Virus

I will stop short of dissecting this page or even comparing it against the 2 other links provided above. The amount of crisp and forthcoming information being provided by the first 2 pages is what I am looking for.

Coming back to the context  – is there a serious lack of resources available to the Government of India (to provide information about the disease?) ?

Are there not enough people who will create a perfect e-home for the Swine Flu pandemic in our country ? Or do we simply don’t care ? To come out with a very honest opinion – the government’s single point contact – National Informatics Center – for all such requirements isn’t simply geared up to be the “best”.

Okay, lets leave the government alone. It has just started coming to office and I would hope that Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad would hover around and see that the government is found behaving in the most astute manner over this matter.

I may not risk trying to counter the actual on-the-ground measures being taken – but have a look at the picture below of a doctor at Attari Railway Station assigned to the task of screening people coming into the country.
And then read about the importance of face masks.

Swine Flu in india: Doctor, where is the mask?
Swine Flu in india: Doctor, where is the mask?

If you look at the best hospitals in Delhi (i.e. AIIMS, Apollo, Escorts / Fortis, Safdarjung), except for AIIMS, none of the websites has a mention of Swine Flu on the homepages of these institutions. And AIIMS has done the easiest thing that was there to do – link those words to the Swine Flu page at MoHFW.

At the cost of sounding the utmost critic of civic agencies, I will have to make a claim. At a time when the H1N1/Swine Flu virus is getting utmost attention all across the world, – can we afford to lack behind even at the “Information Propagation” stage. Is it really too much to ask – that I want to read all about Swine Flu / H1N1 sitting in the comfort of my home ?

I can already hear the standard argument that would be posted as a response to this “want”. The internet penetration in India is minuscule and the government has taken appropriate steps through other information mediums.

Being from Delhi, I can only provide facts about Delhi. However, there is little chance that those facts cannot be extrapolated to be found true all across the country. Tune into any of the radio stations like 91.1, 92.7, 93.5 or 98.3 FM – and keep yourself tuned for the next 24 hours. Tell me the number of times you hear a government solicited campaign trying to tell you about Swine Flu.
If these radio stations can provide some recording of dates like 1st and 2nd May 2009 – listen to them again for 24 hours. And count the number of times you hear a Congress or BJP poll campaign. Well, it is no surprise what number would win this game.

It’s high time that our civic agencies, the concerned ministries went overboard onto the information bandwagon. There is no single information medium that could possibly be overlooked in today’s times. And if the private players in the Health Care sector are not going to participate in such ventures, there is only a particular section of the “aam-junta” that’s going to feel “informed”.

Isn’t it morally binding upon the Apollo’s and Fortis to be forthcoming on what the H1N1 virus is all about ? What are the symptoms ? What are the precautions ? How does the virus spread.

There is never a dearth of information when it comes to the Healthcare sector. However, there is a real need to have the right propagation mechanism in place – for both the public and private players in this space. I hope the agencies do not let this be treated like a localized spread of some disease. Its a “Pandemic”. Lets treat it like one.

Update – List of Help Centers

Mumbai: Kasturba Hospital

Ph: 022- 23083901 / 23092458 / 23000889

Chennai: Communicable Disease Hospital,

Ph: 91-11-24525211, 23404328

Mumbai:M T Agarwal Hospital

Ph:022 25605728, 022 25605729

Bangalore: RAJIV GANDHI INSTITUTE OF CHEST DISEASES

Ph: – 560 029, Ph: 91-80-26631923

Pune: Dr. Naidu Infectious Disease Hospital,

Ph: 09923130909

Mumbai: K B Bhaba Hospital,

Ph: 022-26422775, 022-26429828.

Nagpur: Govt Medical College and Hospital,

Ph: 0712-2750730

Mumbai:Siddharth Hospital

Ph:022-28766885, 022-28766886

Kolkatta: Beliaghata Infectious Diseases Hospital,

Ph: 09433392182

Mumbai:Bhagwati Hospital,

Ph:022-28917145

Delhi: Influenza Ward,

Ph: 91-11-24525211, 23404328

Mumbai: Rajawadi Hospital,

Ph:022-25127372, 022 25094149

img credit: wikipedia, hindu

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