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New book says public policies subsidizing ill-health

Nov 24, 2014

The book exposes how wrong government policies are actually subsidizing ill-health, particularly risk factors of heart disease.

Know Your Heart

Hyderabad:  The problem of rising numbers of heart disease in the country can’t just be tackled by the health sector alone as wrong policies in many other areas are contributing to this problem, a new book has suggested.

The government through its heart-unfriendly policies is boosting key risk factors of heart disease like tobacco and junk food, says the book ‘Know Your Heart: The Hidden Links Between Your Body and the Politics of the State’  written by New Delhi-based science journalist Dinesh C Sharma. The book was formally released in the city on Saturday at Lamakaan.

A panel of eminent experts – Prof G V S Murthy (Director, Indian Institute of Public Health, Hyderabad), Prof E Haribabu (Pro-Vice Chancellor, University of Hyderabad), Prof Guatam Pingle (public policy expert) and Kanthi Kannan (Founder, Right to Walk Foundation) – spoke about the book. Kingshuk Nag, resident editor, Times of India, presided over. All the speakers called for changes in public polices in different sector to prevent the rise of non-communicable diseases.

The book exposes how wrong government policies are actually subsidizing ill-health, particularly risk factors of heart disease.

“On one hand we have major risk factors – unhealthy foods, tobacco and physical inactivity, among others, and all health experts globally telling us reduce these risk factors to fight heart disease, and on the other hand we have government policies which are actively subsidizing these very risk factors”, Sharma said while explaining the theme of the book.

Elaborating on government subsidies being given to tobacco and junk food, Sharma said all public policies are supposed to be directed towards reducing tobacco consumption, but the Indian government actively promotes tobacco research, marketing and even gives annual awards to cigarette and gutkha companies through agencies like Directorate of Tobacco Development and Tobacco Board.

Government policies are also aimed at giving subsidies and grants to companies that produce junk food products, and government spreads unhealthy messages like “processed food are better than freshly cooked food through the Ministry of Food Processing Industries. Similarly, public policies discourage cycling, walking and other physical activities while actively supporting motorization and subsidizes use of personal transport.

In effect, the author concludes, public policies are not health-promoting but are subsidizing key risk factors of heart disease in India.

The book concludes that it is not just the individual who must solely bear the responsibility personally for exposure to all those risk factors but we as society are also equally responsible. “The least the government can do is stop subsidizing tobacco and junk food, and begin health promotion,” Sharma added.

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