THERE has been an alarming rise in the number of asthma cases among children in Maharashtra and the state’s health department has warned that the rising air pollution could be to blame.
Between April 2018 and March 2019 alone, the state’s Health Management Information System (HMIS) recorded 6,886 cases of asthma among children, admitted Public Health Minister Eknath Shinde. This is a sharp rise of more than 39 per cent over 2017-18, when 4,185 cases were reported during the corresponding period. The findings come amid growing concern about the air pollution in the commercial capital.
Shinde admitted to the disturbing trend in his written reply to a starred question raised by BJP members in the Legislative Assembly. The question was tabled during the proceedings on Friday. To a query whether it was true that the rate of asthma cases among children had gone up from 5.5 per cent in 2008 to 15 per cent in 2018, Shinde said this was “partly true” while sharing the number of cases reported during the last two years.
Shinde further wrote that a survey carried out by the National Child Health Mission involving 60.73 lakh children in the 0-6 age group in the state had found incidence of reactive airway diseases — a term used for restrictive respiratory condition like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease — in 23,233 cases. “The rise in allergies and asthma may be due to an increase in airborne pollens. There has been a rise in bronchial asthma cases,” he said.
Shinde’s reply also made it clear that children and newborns in metro cities and urban agglomerates were suffering more from the condition. In Mumbai, till May 2019, Shinde said 2,401 cases of child asthma were recorded, while Pune and Nashik reported 1,121 and 387 cases. In Palghar, also in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, 485 cases were found during the period. The minister said that instructions to public health officials and private health care homes had been issued for diagnosis and proper medical care in such cases.
In a written reply to another question, Shinde also admitted that the number of infant deaths in the state had risen from 10,348 in 2016-17 to 16,539 in 2018-19, which is a near 60 per cent increase. But he said that the Infant Morality Rate had improved from 22 (per 1,000 live births) in 2014 to 19 in 2019. The Centre has set a goal of bringing down India’s overall IMR to 10 by 2030.
While enlisting the various measures taken by the state government to prevent such deaths, Shinde wrote that “viral infections, pneumonia, low birth weight, and respiratory diseases” were found to be the main reasons behind such deaths.
With monsoon around the corner, Shinde also cited a dengue alert. Between 2016-2019, Shinde said that the state had recorded 168 dengue related deaths. He admitted that incidences of dengue had grown in the last few years. He also informed that a month-long drive carried out by his department, which ended on October 2018, had found 5,268 new cases of leprosy in the state.