India plans to tackle the impact of air pollution on health at the district level

New Delhi: Given the growing concerns over the impact of air pollution on public health, the Union government is planning to start a programme wherein district level officials will keep a record of patients who visit hospitals with respiratory illnesses and the air quality at that time. 

For this purpose, district level officials are being trained, with the Union health and family welfare ministry planning to introduce a district-level action plan to tackle the impact of air pollution on health, according to officials. 

“The idea is to have two sets of data—one is of patients having existing breathing difficulties like acute respiratory illness and the other of those coming to hospitals for the first time with the same complications. Then the hospitals will also keep a data record of the treatment for patients—if they required admission in hospital and if oxygen supply was needed,” said an official aware of the matter.

The official further noted that hospitals will analyse the hospital’s patient-load data with the city’s air quality. Then, the state will probe the connection between pollution and health and to what extent pollution impacts public health.

“And this is going to help the local administration to know how pollution is impacting health and indicate the need of any action. There is a need for making climate-resilient health infrastructure to make a sustainable system. Therefore, apart from a state-level action plan, there is going to be a district-level action plan as well,” the official noted.

Action plan

Recently, around 200 officials from different districts were trained and asked to frame guidelines. Each district will have its own action plan. With more manpower, the plan will expand to cover aspects such as mental health, water, vector-borne diseases, and zoonotic diseases.

A Lancet study published in 2022 stated that pollution led to more than 2.3 million premature deaths in India in 2019. The study further noted that nearly 1.6 million deaths were due to air pollution alone, and more than 500,000 were related to water pollution. Globally, air pollution—both ambient and household—was responsible for 6.7 million deaths in 2019. Water pollution was responsible for 1.4 million deaths and lead pollution caused 900,000 premature deaths.

Another modelling study by the BMJ stated that outdoor air pollution from all sources accounts for 2.18 million deaths per year in India, second only to China. British Medical Journal ia a weekly peer-reviewed medical journal.

States haves already been framing a separate action plan to combat the effects of climate change on people’s health, and most states and Union territories have framed initial drafts of their action plans—called vision documents—in collaboration with the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and sent them to the Union health ministry for approval. The purpose of the action plan is to guide doctors and hospitals on the way to tackle health hazards related to climate change, manpower requirement, and development of flood-resilient centres so the impact of climate change and any related issues can be determined.

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Published: 14 May 2024, 07:10 PM IST

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