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BY FRANK ISLAM
India and the United States of America are the two largest democracies in the world. For most of this 21st century, they have served as solid examples for others to follow. The same cannot be said for their delivery of healthcare. The World Health Organization (WHO) provided its first and only ranking of health systems in 2000. The US ranked 37 and India ranked 112 out of 191 countries.
The current coronavirus crisis, which the WHO declares has the potential of becoming a pandemic illustrates the need for a world-class health care system. Both India and the US have coronavirus cases. India has responded quickly by putting a systemic nation-wide plan in place to combat the virus. The US has responded very slowly as President Donald Trump has politicized the issue, dismissed its importance and even labeled it a “new hoax”.
Although there have been distinctly different responses by the US and India to the coronavirus epidemic and there was a substantial distance between their rankings in both cited studies, there are differences and similarities in the healthcare delivery in these two democracies. More importantly, there are lessons that they can learn from each other to enhance the healthcare delivered to and health of their citizens.
There are many differences between India and the US healthcare systems. The primary ones include: the level of expenditure; the nature of healthcare support, and the nature of coverage. According to various reports, the US spends close to 18 per cent of its GDP on healthcare compared to less than just 4 per cent of GDP by India. The average expenditure per capita in the US more than $10,000 in the US and less than $100 in India.
This difference is huge. So, too is the nature of healthcare support. In the US there is broad and extensive quality support through both public and private facilities. In India, the private sector dominates quality healthcare delivery which restricts access for many middle class or poor citizens.
This disparity is heightened by the fact that because a majority of Americans have some form of insurance coverage — only 10 to 12 per cent have to pay for healthcare out of their own pockets. In contrast, around 70 per cent of Indians do not have any health insurance. So, they have to pay out of their own pocket for medical services. In spite of these differences which appear gargantuan, there are some similarities of considerable magnitude in the nature of the healthcare systems as well.
In the US and India alike, there are far too few medical facilities and medical professionals in rural areas. There used to be an adequate supply in the US but they have disappeared over the past few decades. There have never been enough in India in the rural areas where over 66 per cent of the citizens reside.
In both countries, businesses interests, hospitals, medical doctors and other influentials have a substantial impact on health policies. And, the individual states (50 in the US and 28 in India) determine to a great extent the nature of the public health system within their boundaries.
Those who fare most poorly in both the US and India are the poor. In the US, poor adults are five times as likely as those with good incomes to report being in fair or poor health. In India, a recent study found that the poor in the poorer states made higher use of public health services but were still paying higher out of pocket expenses than those in states that were more well off.
These similarities and differences highlight potential areas to address to improve the healthcare delivery in both countries. And, even though neither the US nor India are at the top of the list, they still have positive healthcare lessons they can teach each other.
From America for India, there is Medicare and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Medicare was signed into law in 1965 primarily to provide health insurance to adults 65 years and older to ensure they had access to quality healthcare as they aged. In 2018, it covered more than 52 million Americans.
The Affordable Care Act was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010. Its intent was to ensure access to quality healthcare for all Americans by providing affordable healthcare insurance coverage to over 55 million uninsured individuals. For a variety of reasons, the ACA has not rolled out as planned and it is threatened by the Trump administration. Nonetheless, it is estimated that it has added close to 20 million to the insurance rolls since its implementation.
From India for America, there is innovation and cost control. In 2018, Dartmouth professor Vijay Govindarajan and Northeaster University professor Ravi Ramamurti published a book, ‘Reverse Innovation in Health Care: How to Make Value Based Delivery Work’. Their book is based upon visiting over two dozen hospitals in India and interviewing more than 125 health care executives in India and the US. In an article on their book they state, “We learned that some of the most proactive hospitals in the West are adopting world-class innovations of Indian healthcare institutions in order to boost quality, lower costs, and expand access to the underserved”
India and the US can learn from each other. They can also learn by looking at best practices in healthcare around the world. The rankings show that both of these democracies have much room for improvement in healthcare.
In 2018, the Modi administration launched its Ayushman Bharat scheme to provide a comprehensive form of insurance coverage to the approximately 300 million Indians living in poverty and those in rural areas. This was an important step forward.
The budget for this fiscal year announced on February 1 advances that step by allocating funds to establish more hospitals in Tier II and Tier III cities. The budget also proposes to address the shortage of medical professionals throughout the country by converting existing hospitals to medical colleges and implementing a “special bridge course” for the development of general physicians and specialists.
These are moves in the right direction. India should carry on with them and other efforts and new initiatives to make its health care system one of the finest in the world. The US should do the same. This must be the case because in the final analysis, a healthy democracy depends on the health of its people. If they are cared for, they will care for their country and the democracy will thrive. (IANS)
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WASHINGTON — U.S. federal law enforcement agencies and Europol announced dozens of arrests to break up a global operation that sold illegal drugs using a shadowy realm of the internet.
At a Department of Justice news conference Tuesday in Washington, officials said they arrested 150 people for allegedly selling illicit drugs, including fake prescription opioids and cocaine, over the so-called darknet. Those charged are alleged to have carried out tens of thousands of illegal sales using a part of the internet that is accessible only by using specialized anonymity tools.
The 10-month dragnet called "Operation HunTor" — named after encrypted internet tools — resulted in the seizure of 234 kilograms of drugs, including amphetamines, cocaine and opioids worth more than $31 million. Officials said many of the confiscated drugs were fake prescription pills laced with the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl. The counterfeit tablets are linked to a wave of drug overdoses.
"This international law enforcement operation spanned across three continents and sends one clear message to those hiding on the darknet peddling illegal drugs: there is no dark internet," said U.S. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco.
Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco speaks during a news at the Department of Justice in Washington, Oct. 26, 2021. Photo credit: VOA
Investigators rounded up and arrested 65 people in the United States. Other arrests occurred in Australia, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. In addition to counterfeit medicine, authorities also confiscated more than 200,000 ecstasy, fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methamphetamine pills.
"We face new and increasingly dangerous threats as drug traffickers expand into the digital world and use the darknet to sell dangerous drugs like fentanyl and methamphetamine," said Anne Milgram, administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). "We cannot stress enough the danger of these substances."
The international police agency Europol worked alongside the U.S. Justice Department's Joint Criminal Opioid and Darknet Enforcement team.
"No one is beyond the reach of the law, even on the dark web," said Jean-Philippe Lecouffe, Europol's deputy executive director.
The dark web is preferred by criminal networks who want to keep their internet activities private and anonymous. In this case, it served as a platform for illegal cyber sales of counterfeit medication and other drugs that were delivered by private shipping companies.
Investigators said the fake drugs are primarily made in laboratories in Mexico using chemicals imported from China. Prosecutors also targeted drug dealers who operated home labs to manufacture fake prescription pain pills.
FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate, second from left, speaks during a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington, Oct. 26, 2021. Photo credit: VOA
"Those purchasing drugs through the darknet often don't know what they're getting," Associate Deputy FBI Director Paul Abbate said. The joint investigation followed enforcement efforts in January in which authorities shut down "DarkMarket," the world's largest illegal international marketplace on the dark web.
Last month, the DEA warned Americans that international and domestic drug dealers were flooding the country with fake pills, driving the U.S. overdose crisis. The agency confiscated more the 9.5 million potentially lethal pills in the last year.
More than 93,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2020, the highest number on record, according the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. U.S. health officials attribute the rise to the use of fentanyl, which can be 100 times more potent than morphine.
U.S. officials said investigations are continuing and more arrests are expected. (VOA/RN)
(This article is originally wriiten by Chris Simkins)
Keywords: Drug Vendors, Investigation, DEA, Illegal purchase, Police Operation, Internet
Facebook-owned WhatsApp may soon ask users to verify their identity to make payments on the platform. According to XDA Developers, new strings spotted in the latest WhatsApp beta release suggest that the messenger will require users to upload verification documents to continue using payments on WhatsApp. Currently, when users set up WhatsApp Pay in India, the service only verifies the phone number linked to your bank account to enable UPI-based transactions. In Brazil, the messenger uses Facebook Pay to validate users' credit or debit cards to facilitate payments.
At the moment, the service doesn't require users to submit any identity verification documents to make payments. However, that might change soon, the report said. WhatsApp v126.96.36.199 beta includes a few new strings which suggest that users might have to submit identity verification documents to continue using payments.
The identity verification might be limited to those who use WhatsApp Pay to receive payments for their businesses. UPI-based apps, like Google Pay, PhonePe and even WhatsApp Pay don't require users to submit any documents to transfer or receive money. However, wallet apps like PayTM do ask for KYC verification as per RBI guidelines.
WhatsApp is yet to make an official announcement regarding this change. Since the new strings have just made their way to the beta version, it might be a while before the company reveals any details, the report said. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: WhatsApp, UPI, payments, verify, identity, documents
By Rajesh U. Pandya
Although the world is recovering from coronavirus pandemic, we must not lower our guards and stay alert when it comes to hand hygiene to curb the spread of the deadly virus. But are we paying sufficient attention to our nail hygiene? Our nails are the index of well-being for our entire body. The manifestations of several critical diseases were first detected within the dirty nails.
The ignorance towards our nails becomes the breeding ground of harmful bacteria. These germs enter our body through our hands because in India we eat through our bare hands. Therefore, nail hygiene is crucial and without it hand hygiene is incomplete.
Practising good nail hygiene involves following a systematic process to ensure the longevity of our nail health. It includes ensuring that food particles, dirt and dust are not sticking to our nails and there is no build-up of nail bacteria. Thankfully, contrary to popular belief, it is not that difficult to maintain good nail hygiene. A little diligence, awareness and attention are sufficient to keep our nails healthy.
Avoiding nail hygiene makes you prone to viral infections
Due to constant negligence towards the cleanliness of the nails, many serious issues like bacterial and viral infections arise. Often these lead to serious health problems. Our hand hygiene is not perfect till the time we clean the undersides of our nails besides washing hands regularly. Most people don't mind sharing nail clippers with others. This is however an extremely unhygienic practice. When we don't share any of our personal hygiene products then why do we share our nail clippers? Nails harbour abundant germs, bacteria and viruses and sharing nail clippers is equivalent to exchanging those microorganisms.
Nails harbour abundant germs, bacteria and viruses and sharing nail clippers is equivalent to exchanging those microorganisms.| Photo by CDC on Unsplash
Keep fingernails dry and clean
It prevents bacterial and fungal infections from growing under our nails. It has been observed that prolonged exposure to water can break nails. It is always recommended to wear cotton-lined rubber gloves when washing dishes, cleaning or using harsh chemicals. In order to follow good nail hygiene, we have to be careful about our nail care products. Use a sharp stainless-steel nail clipper with a grime remover, that can remove the hidden germs and grime below the nails. Trim nails straight, then round the tips into a gentle curve. Always wash hands and under nails with soap and water after a nail clipping session.
Always wash hands and under nails with soap and water after a nail clipping session. Photo by rashid khreiss on Unsplash
Keep hands and nails moisturized to avoid the cuticles from overgrowing. Frequent use of nail paint remover, hand sanitisers and harsh soaps can result in the dryness of cuticles along with nails. Keep nails short, trim them regularly and wash hands for at least 20 seconds and then moisturize them, This will make the chance of diseases slimmer and can prevent any kind of viruses. KAI India nail clipper comes with unique features like 100 per cent stainless steel, nail filer, grime remover, nail tray and non-chromium coating making them safe and most effective for maintaining proper nail hygiene.
Here are some of the more ways through which we can keep our nail hygiene intact, thereby protecting it from the damage to nails:
* Stay away from chewing fingernails: It has the potential of damaging the nail bed as a minor cut can cause infection. Moreover, when we bite our nails, germs enter our mouths directly.
* Be gentle towards hangnails: Never pull off your hangnails. Rather, be gentle towards them and carefully clip them off. Stop using those products which are harsh on nails. Always go for acetone-free products.
* Go for a regular nail checkup: If you have a persistent nail problem, consult a doctor or dermatologist for an evaluation.
* Do not share: Try not to share your nail clipper, as they contain germs. Wash the nail clipper with lukewarm water and wipe with a soft cloth. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: Nails, hygiene, covid, clipper, products, infections