An Open Letter to Minister of Health and Family Welfare, India.

Dear Shri Jagat Prakash Nadda,

I am writing as a responsible citizen of India, who cares about the health, well-being and safety of men, women and children.

As you may be aware, 19 November is International Men’s Day, and it is being celebrated in over 80 countries in the world this year with the theme “Make a difference for men and boys”.

On this occasion, I would like to specifically draw your attention towards the health and well-being of men and boys.

It is important to remember that everyday, men make many sacrifices to protect and provide for their families, and thereby make many positive contributions to the community, society, family, marriage, child care and the environment.

  • These men include sanitation workers, construction workers, chemical and gas factory workers, mechanics and miners who routinely suffer from chronic occupational health issues and often die before they reach the age of 60.
  • They include soldiers, firefighters, land mine removers, deep sea fishermen, electric linemen, house painters and glass cleaners who risk their lives everyday.
  • They include farmers, weavers, tea sellers, drivers, paperboys, mailmen and watchmen, who render their services, often without receiving a word of recognition or gratitude.
  • They include teachers, doctors, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and public servants, who help improve the quality of life for everyone in the society.
  • They include fathers, grandfathers, brothers, husbands, friends and colleagues who stand by us, inspire us, make us laugh and enrich our lives.
  • They include men in all walks of life who live honest, decent lives and help keep the wheels of progress and hope turning.

However, men’s health, both physical and emotional, is one of the areas which is seriously neglected in India. Even the most recent National Health and Family Survey of 2015, only addresses maternal health and child health, while examining the key indicators of health and family welfare. It refers to men only in the context of family planning and as to how they can contribute to the health and welfare of women and children.

In India, a lot of health problems in men remain poorly diagnosed or left undiagnosed. Male-specific health problems also tend to be more fatal. For example, as against 5.37 lakh women, only 4.77 lakh men were diagnosed with cancer in India in 2012.  In the same year, 3.26 lakh women and 3.56 lakh men, i.e. 30,000 more men compared to women, died of cancer (Ref 2).

A recent study (Ref 1) reports that the incidence of prostate cancer among Indian males is “constantly and rapidly increasing in all the most recent Population Based Cancer Registries (PBCRs)”, and “the cancer projection data shows that the number of cases will become doubled by 2020.” The study also states that “Given the current age-specific incidence, morbidity, and mortality rates of prostate cancer, this disease will become a far greater public health problem in the future”.

While the top five cancers that claim men’s lives in general are lip/oral cavity, lung, stomach, colorectum and the pharynx (Ref 2), this recent study (Ref 1) shows that prostate is “the second leading site of cancer among males in large Indian cities like Delhi, Kolkatta, Pune and Thiruvananthapuram, the third leading site of cancer in cities like Bangalore and Mumbai and it is among the top ten leading sites of cancers in the rest of the population based cancer registries (PBCRs) of India”.

Male-specific health issues are often blamed on negligence of men themselves. No effort is made by the Government on spreading awareness about or for preventing and controlling male-specific illnesses, diseases and disorders. As a citizen, a voter and a taxpayer of this country, I believe that the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare must

  1. acknowledge the place and the value of men in the family.
  2. include men’s health in the National Health and Family Survey of India.
  3. spend time and resources to spread awareness about stress and depression, male specific cancers, heart disease and neurodegenerative diseases which are responsible for reduced quality of life and premature mortality among men.
  4. allocate resources to support research on male-specific disorders, diseases and illnesses – both physical and psychological, and to help find affordable remedies and cures for the same.

On the occasion of International Men’s Day (19 November), I request you to focus your attention on the above issues , and help make a difference for men and boys.

Thank you,

Uma Challa
Author, Hyderabad

References:

  1. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214540014000486
  2. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/7-lakh-Indians-died-of-cancer-last-year-WHO/articleshow/27317742.cms

 

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