Leading healthcare experts from around the world are concerned over the rising toxicity levels in air, water, consumable goods and food and their impact on maternal and child health in the long-term in low- and middle-income group countries, including India.
They emphasised on the need for a sustained global collaborative effort to address the toxicity issue, both internal and external, to foster a healthy future generation and population.
Bengaluru-based orgzation ARTIST for Her (Asian Research and Training Institute for Skill Transfer) co-hosted the meet of gynaecologists and obstetricians - ORIGYN (Oasis of Recognized & Innovative Practices in Gynaecology) over the weekend where luminaries deliberated on High Risk Pregnancy, Fetal Medicine, Infertility, Challenges in Endoscopic Surgery, Oncology & Urogynecology.
FIGO (International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics), the knowledge partner of the conference, is already advocating reduction and prevention of exposure to toxic chemicals globally. Dr Jeanne Conry, President-Elect, FIGO, in her address, highlighted the vulnerability of pregnancy to chemicals exposures, especially in developing countries like India, which continue to produce toxic chemicals used in a variety of products.
"Environmental toxicity and its impact on maternal health is well documented by FIGO. Endocrine disruptors (chemicals) are having a devastating effect on pregnant women. Harmful chemicals in pharma drugs, presence of metals like mercury and lead in the environment, pesticides and industrial chemicals released through air pollution are causing long-term distress on the mother and the child resulting in neurological complications, cancers, autism, poor reproductive health and fetal development," said Dr Jeanne.
While pointing out that the proof of burden rested on the medical fraternity all these years, it was time that industry and policy-makers took equal responsibilities.
"There have been several cases where a particular chemical was found to have impacted maternal health in the long-term. They were removed from the market. But new chemicals are entering the market, and unless we prove that they are harmful, their production will not stop. This has to change; we need preventive mechsms through advocacy and policies," she added.
Endorsing her views, eminent healthcare leader Dr C N Purandare, past president of FIGO, observed that toxicity starts "in utero" where non-communicable diseases (NCDs) impact foetus resulting intergenerational transfer as pregnancies advance.
"Studies have shown that 86 per cent of deaths in the COVID pandemic era have occurred in people with co-morbidities. In the post COVID-19 world, prevention and care of NCDs must be prioritized to improve public health," he added.
More than 130 million pregnancies are reported worldwide resulting in live births every year. Of these, an estimated 21 million cases with hyperglycemia, 7-8 million with hypertension; 42 million cases with maternal overweight and obesity; 26 million by maternal undernutrition and 56 million by maternal anemia, all because of 'in utero' conditions.
According to Dr Moshe Hod from Israel, The Chair of FIGO PNCD Committee, there is a good opportunity to address NCDs in one go in developing countries by linking tests to immunisation programmes. "Intervention aimed at early prevention during pregnancy is needed. Obesity, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and strokes can be addressed simultaneously," he added.
Dr Hema Divakar, CEO, ARTIST for Her and Vice Chair of the PNCD committee at FIGO pointed out that in developing countries aspirational families are opting for modern facilities and amenities without ascertaining the toxicity levels that these bring into homes.
"The transition is happening in the wrong direction in low and middle-income group countries, as harmful toxins and chemicals are finding their way into kitchen, furniture, cosmetic and white goods. This needs a speed-breaker. We are working in this direction to sensitize the stakeholders concerned, who in turn will cascade the awareness to target groups," said Dr Hema.
The mega meet deliberated on many other issues concerning women and child health with 68 foreign faculty and 160 Indian faculty participating in debates and interactive sessions.
Dr Faysal El Kak, Vice President of FIGO, in his message to the virtual conference attended by experts from over 130 countries, emphasised that "this kind of outreach programmes help in spreading best practices in women's healthcare." Dr Kak complemented ARTIST for Her in its efforts to enhance knowledge outreach impactfully in these parts of the world.
Dr K Sudhakar, Minister for Health & Family Welfare and Medical Education, Government of Karnataka, in his inaugural address said, "It is a matter of pride that our Bengaluru based orgzation ARTIST for Her is co-hosting the East meets West conference of gynecologists and obstetricians to share and exchange knowledge on women's health and develop new protocols in healthcare."
Dr S Sacchidanand, Vice Chancellor, Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences, Karnataka made a pertinent point on protocols in women's health care. "There are similarities and differences in practices and protocol being followed in Western countries and in Eastern countries. I am glad that ARTIST for Her is developing and focusing on women's healthcare protocols for India and other low and middle healthcare countries."
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( With inputs from ANI )
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