Staff Reporter –
On the occasion of National Doctors’ Day, SwitchON Foundation in partnership with EPICINDIA, University of Chicago, organized a panel discussion on Air Pollution and Climate Change with the leading doctors of Kolkata. Along with it the panel also gave an orientation workshop for its flagship Program called Clean Air Medical Students Ambassador Program to the medical students selected across medical colleges in West Bengal, Jharkhand and Odisha. The initiative is supported by various Medical Associations like South Asian Medical Students Association, Association of Radiation Oncologists of India, Chest Council of India, Society of Emergency Medicines etc.
The primary objective of the Program is to develop a strong network of medical professionals who will encourage community advocacy for sustainable development with their informed knowledge of the detrimental effects of pollution on human health. Research studies on air pollution and its adverse effects on health outcomes will cover topics like cancer, respiratory, reproductive and Maternal (including child and mother), Cardio-vascular and Community health. Other activities include conducting training, workshops, health camps, micro projects on waste and single use plastic etc. Every ambassador will get a certain stipend and logistical expenses for conducting the research. Certificates to the participants and awards to the best performers of the program will be provided along with training and mentorship by senior doctors and experts. The medical ambassador will get networking opportunities with senior health researchers, clean air experts, government officials and policymakers, and medical practitioners.
Mr. Vinay Jaju, Managing director of SwitchON Foundation said, “The Clean Air Medical Ambassadors Program is to create an opportunity by SwitchON Foundation for medical students to actively research on the most burning issue and provide credible information on the impact of air pollution health under the guidance of reseachears, doctors and experts.”
Eminent dignitaries present in the panel were Shri Ashirbad Raha, Communications Director, EPIC India; Dr. Arup Halder, Consultant Pulmonologist, CMRI Hospital; Dr. Kaustav Choudhury, Pediatric Consultant, Apollo Gleneagles Hospital; Dr. Sanjukta Dutta, Consultant and Head, Emergency Medicine, Fortis Hospital, Kolkata; Dr. Sushmita Roy Chowdhury, Director, Pulmonology, Fortis Hospital Anandapur, Kolkata. The distinguished experts highlighted the effect of air pollution and climate change.
According to the World Air Quality Report 2021, India ranked fifth most polluted among 117 countries, regions and territories. Besides, Delhi has been the world’s most polluted capital for the fourth consecutive year. Ambient and indoor air pollution is estimated to have caused 1.7 million premature deaths in India in 2019.The Indian Government is coming up with initiatives like the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) to tackle air pollution by setting a target of 40% reduction in particulate matter concentration in cities covered under NCAP by 2026. To achieve this, a collaborative effort is required from every citizen of the nation. Doctors and medical students can play an integral role by persuading society to achieve clean air. Their voice will have the biggest impact as they have specialized knowledge regarding the effects of air pollution.
A study was launched by SwitchON Foundation on Air Pollution and Health Seeking Behaviour among Marginalized Groups-A Study from Health Camps in Purba Bardhaman. A total of 513 respondents who revealed their own experiences with health issues were analyzed. It was found that Wet cough is the most prevalent upper respiratory complaint across all age groups, followed by headache, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and sinusitis. Across different occupation groups, when it comes to upper respiratory symptoms, construction workers reported to have the highest rates of symptoms of wet cough and headache (75%) and vendors came in second (67%) in this category. For lower respiratory symptoms among various income groups, the 50k-100k income group shows the highest symptoms (40%) of dry cough. The study revealed that Eye-related illnesses have been the most common health difficulties across all occupational categories, followed by respiratory, stomach, heart, skin, and other issues.
Congratulating SwitchOn Foundation about this one of its kind initiative, Ashirbad Raha, Regional Director of Communications at EPIC India said, “Air pollution is the biggest silent killer of our times. So increasing the awareness of future doctors about the health impacts of polluted air is like creating an army of informed air pollution champions.” He added, “When a doctor talks about the damage of poor air quality, citizens and policymakers both will understand the gravity of this threat even more.”
Amongst the panelists, Dr. Arup Halder, Consultant Pulmonologist, CMRI Hospital said, “Medical students can play a significant role in climate change in addressing the global air pollution crisis. The Clean Air Medical Students Ambassador Program championed by SwitchON Foundation is a commendable initiative to motivate Medical colleges and students to come together for a cleaner and healthier future.”