Experts stress on integrated approach to fight Diarrhea

At an event organized by PATH on 26th July at New Delhi, the various top public health experts and stakeholders discussed the challenges and way forward for meeting the goal of diarrhea free India

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New Delhi: Diarrheal disease is the second leading killer disease of children under five around the world. This crisis is especially critical where safe water, sanitation, and access to urgent medical care are limited. When it doesn’t kill, repeated bouts of diarrheal illness can lead to irreversible physical and cognitive stunting, a burden that contributes to keeping families locked in a cycle of poverty and limiting children’s ability to reach their full potential.

However, there is a silver lining. The crisis can be solved with simple prevention and treatment solutions if done in a planned way. In the same context, PATH began the Defeat Diarrheal Disease Initiative (DefeatDD) in 2009 to raise awareness of the burden of diarrheal disease and help increase access to the solutions, calling on policymakers and donors to support integrated approaches. To achieve this goal, DefeatDD’s website and social media channels convened diverse stakeholders and function as a repository of relevant resource material.

As a part of these ongoing efforts, DefeatDD hosted a dissemination meeting, ‘Defeating Diarrhea: Integration is the solution,’ on July 26, 2017, at New Delhi. The meeting began with screening of the new short videos (below) based on the DefeatDD team’s recent resource-gathering trip to India along with a keynote address by Dr NK Ganguly, Advisor, Translational Health Science and Technology Institute, and former Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research, on  ‘Why we should continue to prioritize diarrheal disease.’

Defeat DD N K Ganguly

In his keynote speech, Dr N K Ganguly stressed on the need that for appropriate action on diarrhea with increased attention towards sanitation at the national level. “There has been the tardy use of the technology. Unfortunately, we have invented the technologies at home but we chose to export it first. We must accelerate our efforts to produce indigenous technologies to make more drugs and diagnostics. At the same time, there are lot many easy interventions that can be used at home,” said Dr Ganguly while adding further, “In that context, the community behavior is a huge factor. ASHAs have been burdened already and we can’t put all the goals of public health only on one set of Health system requires tweaking. Even Bangladesh is a way ahead of us on this count.”

“We need good funding for diarrheal diseases but more importantly, we need to be firm believers to achieve. This initiative to defeat diarrhea has to be a people’s movement,” concluded Dr Ganguly.

This will be followed by a panel discussion: ‘Integrated approaches to tackle diarrhea.’ Opening the discussion, Mr Neeraj Jain, India Country Program Leader, PATH stated, “There are 150 districts in India that have become open defecation free. Yet there are huge challenges that continue to act as hurdles before the goal of eliminating diarrhea.”

Commenting on the challenges, Dr Francis Paul of the World Health Organization mentioned, “Working in silos with certain known interventions won’t work. Human resources are a huge drawback. Repackaging the scheme doesn’t work.” Dr Paul added further, “What we need is integrated programs with district level planning. Point of care diagnostics at implementation level will be most helpful.”

Ms Tinny Sawhney of Agakhan Foundation shared her experiences at ground level while working among rural areas. She particularly mentioned that in Phulwari Sharief (Bihar), the quality of water has been improved due to efforts of sanitation workers. “We set up hand washing stations at public places and schools. As a result, there was a visible change,” said Tinny, “Sanitation around the water hand pumps is an area that requires attraction. Tracking use of toilets and open defecation areas also critical.”

Video Series by PATH to capture ground level experiences 

In March 2017, DefeatDD visited programs in Delhi and Patna to capture video footage, photography, and stakeholder interviews about exciting integrated programs being implemented to check diarrhea. The materials are being used in advocacy efforts to raise awareness about and build the case for sustained visibility and investment in diarrheal disease.

Through this series, DefeatDD sought to call greater attention to the lifelong impacts of repeated diarrheal illness in children as they grow up, as well as in their families and communities. It showcased the momentum and progress in India through the work of groups like Save the Children (the Stop Diarrhoea Initiative), PSI, and the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and others to inspire advocates nationally and globally.

Watch video: “Health is our right”: India’s momentum against diarrhea.

 Watch Video: “A healthy start to a new generation”: Stopping the cycle of diarrheal disease

Watch Video: The impact of a toilet: A family story