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Yoga empowers People to take control of their Lives and achieve Better Health: UN forum

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Vastu Shastra is a traditional Hindu system of design based on directional alignments. Wikimedia
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  • Yoga can reduce medical expenses through preventing diseases
  • Citing the cases of amputees continuing to feel pain in their phantom limbs
  • Actor-activist Anupam Kher said that often one’s happiness is left in the hands of others

– by Arul Louis

United Nations, June 22, 2017: Yoga empowers people to take control of their lives and achieve better health at lower cost to society, according to experts at a forum here on Wednesday celebrating the Third International Day of Yoga (IDY).

Bruce Lipton, a developmental biologist, said the emerging field of epigenetics shows that “we are not determined by (our) genes” and can be “powerful mastersa of one’s own life. Yoga, he said, can help people overcome their genetic inheritance and change their health outcomes.

This year’s IDY theme was “Yoga for Health” and the science, health, business and yoga experts on the panel at the UN spoke of how its proliferation can lead the way to better health for all with a reduction in healthcare costs and achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

ALSO READ: Kung Fu Yoga: A Movie depicting Indo-Chinese Friendship!

The World Health Organisation (WHO), which co-sponsored the event, is in the middle of a year-long campaign, “Let’s talk about depression,” which takes aim at this specific mental health problem.

Nata Menabde, the Executive Director of WHO UN Office, said yoga combats depression and has a role in the campaign.

WHO was collaborating with leading academic institutions around the world, including some in the Ivy League, on scientific research on the health effects of yoga, she said.

Yoga can reduce medical expenses through preventing diseases, she added.

Swami Chidanand Saraswati of the Paramarta Niketan Ashram in Rishikesh said healthcare should move from medicine to meditation because of its power to heal.

In hospitals, he said, meditation should be used alongside medication as society moves from healthcare to “Yoga care”. This would lead to tremendous savings in healthcare costs, he added.

Keith Mitchell, a former US National Football League star who suffered a career-ending spinal injury during a game that virtually paralysed him, gave powerful testimony about the healing power of yoga.

Starting with breathing exercises and then through other yoga exercises, he was able to walk again, he said.

Lack of connection to family and society lies at the root of illnesses and yoga can help overcome this through bringing about a connection to family and society, said Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, also of the Paramarta Niketan Ashram.

Citing the cases of amputees continuing to feel pain in their phantom limbs — the parts that have been removed — she said that experience of physical pain is in the mind and yoga, through its effects on the mind, can help control pain.

Another testimony to the power of yoga in a different area came from Stanton Kawer, the CEO of a US marketing company. He said that what he learned through yoga helped his business when applied to the work environment.

Workers’ engagement with their work and company ultimately boosts the success of the company and this could be achieved through yoga, he said.

Bringing the yoga principles of honouring and respecting people to the workplace makes a difference and this has worked for his company, he said.

Actor-activist Anupam Kher said that often one’s happiness is left in the hands of others, but yoga’s impact is enabling one to be oneself and finding happiness within. (IANS)

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Hospitals Worldwide Detain Patients If They Cant Pay The Bill

Earlier this month, the High Court ruled again that imprisoning patients “is not one of the acceptable avenues [for hospitals] to recover debt.

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Margaret Oliele, a former detained patient, poses for a portrait in her home in Nairobi, Kenya. VOA

Doctors at Nairobi’s Kenyatta National Hospital have told Robert Wanyonyi there’s nothing more they can do for him. Yet more than a year after he first arrived, shot and paralyzed in a robbery, the ex-shopkeeper remains trapped in the hospital.

Because Wanyonyi cannot pay his bill of nearly 4 million Kenyan shillings ($39,570), administrators are refusing to let him leave his fourth-floor bed.

At Kenyatta National Hospital and at an astonishing number of hospitals around the world, if you don’t pay up, you don’t go home.

The hospitals often illegally detain patients long after they should be medically discharged, using armed guards, locked doors and even chains to hold those who have not settled their accounts. Even death does not guarantee release: Kenyan hospitals and morgues are holding hundreds of bodies until families can pay their loved ones’ bills, government officials say.

An Associated Press investigation has found evidence of hospital imprisonments in more than 30 countries worldwide, according to hospital records, patient lists and interviews with dozens of doctors, nurses, health academics, patients and administrators. The detentions were found in countries including the Philippines, India, China, Thailand, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Bolivia and Iran. Of more than 20 hospitals visited by the AP in Congo, only one did not detain patients.

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A relative adjusts the oxygen mask of a tuberculosis patient at a TB hospital on World Tuberculosis Day in Hyderabad, India. VOA

Millions possibly affected

“What’s striking about this issue is that the more we look for this, the more we find it,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute. “It’s probably hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people that this affects worldwide.”

During several August visits to Kenyatta National Hospital — a major medical institution designated a Center of Excellence by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — the AP witnessed armed guards in military fatigues standing watch over patients. Detainees slept on bedsheets on the floor in cordoned-off rooms. Guards prevented one worried father from seeing his detained toddler.

Kenya’s ministry of health and Kenyatta canceled several scheduled interviews with the AP and declined to respond to repeated requests for comment.

Health experts decry hospital imprisonment as a human rights violation. Yet the United Nations, U.S. and international health agencies, donors and charities have all remained silent while pumping billions of dollars into these countries to support their splintered health systems or to fight outbreaks of diseases including AIDS and malaria.

“People know patients are being held prisoner, but they probably think they have bigger battles in public health to fight, so they just have to let this go,” said Sophie Harman, a global health expert at Queen Mary University of London.

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Detained patients lie on beds in the Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya. VOA

Hospitals often acknowledge detaining patients isn’t profitable, but many say it can sometimes result in a partial payment and serves as a deterrent.

‘A way to conduct business’

Festus Njuguna, an oncologist at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret, about 300 kilometers northwest of Nairobi, said the institution regularly detains children with cancer who have finished their treatment, but whose parents cannot pay.

“It’s not a very good feeling for the doctors and nurses who have treated these patients, to see them kept like this,” Njuguna said.

Still, many officials openly defend the practice.

“We can’t just let people leave if they don’t pay,” said Leedy Nyembo-Mugalu, administrator of Congo’s Katuba Reference Hospital. He said holding patients wasn’t an issue of human rights, but simply a way to conduct business: “No one ever comes back to pay their bill a month or two later.”

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FILE – A Yemeni woman suspected of being infected with cholera receives treatment at a hospital in the capital Sanaa. VOA

Global health agencies and companies that operate where patients are held hostage often have very little to say about it.

The CDC provides about $1.5 million every year to Kenyatta National Hospital and Pumwani Maternity Hospital, helping to cover treatment costs for patients with HIV and tuberculosis, among other programs. The CDC declined to comment on whether it was aware that patients were regularly detained at the two hospitals or if it condones the practice.

Dr. Agnes Soucat of the World Health Organization said it does not support patient detentions, but has been unable to document where it happens. And while the WHO has issued hundreds of health recommendations on issues from AIDS to Zika virus, the agency has never published any guidance advising countries not to imprison people in their hospitals.

‘Cruel, inhuman and degrading’

Many Kenyan human rights advocates lament that hospitals continue to hold patients despite what was seen as a landmark judgment in 2015.

Back then, the High Court ruled that the detention of two women at Pumwani who couldn’t pay their delivery fees — Maimuna Omuya and Margaret Oliele — was “cruel, inhuman and degrading.” Omuya and her newborn were held for almost a month next to a flooded toilet while Oliele was handcuffed to her bed after trying to escape.

Cholera, hospitals
A doctor gestures outside a hospital in the Algerian town of Boufarik, as the country faces a cholera outbreak. VOA

Earlier this month, the High Court ruled again that imprisoning patients “is not one of the acceptable avenues [for hospitals] to recover debt.”

Omuya said she is still psychologically scarred by her detention at Pumwani, especially after another recent run-in with a Nairobi hospital.

Also Read: Kenya’s First Breast Milk Bank to Combat Newborn Mortality

Several months ago, her youngest brother was treated for a suspected poisoning. When Omuya and her family were unable to pay the bill, the situation took a familiar but unwelcome turn: he was imprisoned. Her brother was only freed after his doctor intervened.

“Detentions still go on because there are no rights here,” Omuya said. “What I suffered, I want no one else to suffer.” (VOA)