Monday February 18, 2019
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New food app to help improving food choices

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New Delhi: A revolutionary app developed in Australia that provides consumers with easy-to-understand information about packing food nutrition — telling them the salt, fat and sugar content of a product by scanning the barcode — and suggesting healthier alternatives has been launched in India.

The FoodSwitch app, developed by the Sydney-based George Institute for Global Health, provides consumers with the knowledge and support needed for better eating habits across India and is aimed at reducing the burden of diet-related diseases and promoting a healthier population, its developers say.

The application, which was funded in part through an Australia-India Council grant uses the established traffic light labelling system — red (high), amber (OK) and green (good) for evaluating products.

Bruce Neal, senior director at The George Institute for Global Health, said at the launch of the app at the Australian High Commissioner’s residence here on Wednesday evening that FoodSwitch makes the sometimes complicated information on nutrition panels immediately understandable.

“FoodSwitch helps consumers evaluate the nutritional content of packaged foods and, when they can be found, suggests better options,” he said.

Neal, who led the team developing the application, said diets high in salt, sugar and fat were now causing major health problems in India.

“This app will be a great help to those trying to stay healthy. We know that it is really hard for people to grasp the meaning of the nutrition panels on foods,” he said.

Australian High Commissioner Patrick Suckling welcomed the practical engagement between the Australian and Indian health sectors.

“Australia has been engaging with India’s health sector for decades across a wide range of activities in R&D, skills training, commercial engagement and on a government-to-government level. This FoodSwitch Application highlights the importance of proactive and creative approaches to preventative health measures and demonstrates Australian innovation and commitment to health outcomes” he said.

Available for iOS and Android consumers free of cost, FoodSwitch is backed by a database of about 10,000 packaged foods compiled in collaboration with the Centre for Chronic Disease Control in India.

If a scanned product is not in the database, consumers can use the phone camera to send in photos so that it can be added.

“In Australia we receive about 150,000 photos each year which allow us to keep the database completely up-to-date,” Neal said.

“This element of consumer participation has been really exciting for us. This will be the largest country that we have launched in and there are unique challenges with the size and scale of the country, as well as the number of foods and grocery stores.

“Consumer participation will be important so that more people can benefit and improve their health.”

The data behind the FoodSwitch app also supports programmes by the food industry and government designed to improve the healthiness of packaged food.

Vivekanand Jha, executive director of the George Institute for Global Health in India, said he hoped Indian consumers would use FoodSwitch when they did their shopping.

“But we also want to work with the Indian food industry and government to improve the quality of the food supply. If we can make even small changes to the average levels of salt, sugar and harmful fat in the food supply, this could go a long way in combating India’s epidemic of non-communicable diseases,” he said.

Already launched in Australia, Britain, New Zealand and South Africa, the app has had more than 600,000 downloads worldwide.

The George Institute is a not-for-profit organisation conducting scientific research in public health and medical sciences.

Affiliated with the University of Sydney, the Institute today also has offices in India, Britain and China and is also affiliated with the University of Hyderabad, the Peking University Health Science Centre and the University of Oxford.

(IANS)

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Low Cure Rate For Childhood Cancer in India: Experts

On International Childhood Cancer Day, the hospital organised a ‘Sit and Draw competition’ with pediatric patients and rewarded the winner

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Health insurance covers only for hospitalization and doesn’t necessarily cover the medical expenses incurred for the treatment of major illnesses. flickr

Childhood cancer comprises almost 3-5 per cent of the total cancer cases in India, experts said here on Friday, expressing concern over the low cure rate due to lack of available data.

“The disturbing reality is that the cure rate of pediatric cancer is almost 80 per cent in the developed countries. When we see the data from major cancer centres, it actually can match up to the Western standard but this data is not enough,” Haemato-Oncologist Vivek Agarwala said at an awareness programme conducted by Narayana Superspecialty Hospital, Howrah.

According to the Indian Council for Medical Research, cancer in children constitutes approximately 3-5 per cent of the total cancer cases in India.

Agarwala said a large portion of the incidence of childhood cancer in society is still not addressed.

Cancer survivor. Flickr

Also, a large section who don’t have access to premier institutes are often diagnosed late due to financial crunch and that is why the overall treatment rate in India is low.

“Probably, the government and society at large are not considering it a big problem as it is just around 5 per cent. We are always campaigning for breast and cervical cancers,” Agarwala said.

“We must remember this 5 per cent of cancer is majorly curable if given proper treatment,” he said.

Leukaemia and retinoblastoma (a form of cancer where children have a white eye) are the two common forms of cancer in children.

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Talking about awareness and symptoms that parents need to watch out for, he said: “Symptoms are different for different cancers, but children who have cancer have poor growth, poor weight gain and decreased appetite. One must get their children evaluated on seeing these symptoms”.

On International Childhood Cancer Day, the hospital organised a ‘Sit and Draw competition’ with pediatric patients and rewarded the winner. (IANS)