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Social concerns integral to modern medicine: Ekbal

By Our Staff Reporter

THRISSUR, NOV. 21. Health activist and former Vice-Chancellor of Kerala University, B. Ekbal, said social concerns were integral to modern medicine and "the obligations of political activity of a true doctor" were being emphasised right from the early stages of the development of this branch of science.

Delivering the Premji Memorial Lecture here on Friday, Dr. Ekbal said there were widespread efforts to propagate a techno-centric view of medicine and to conceal the social factors that cause diseases. However, the pioneers of modern medicine like the late Rudolph Virchow, who was instrumental in the development of cellular pathology, had made it clear way back in the 19th century itself that issues such as lack of potable drinking water, nutritious food, education were the real causes of many diseases.

`Health industry'

The World Health Organisation's Alma Ata Declaration of 1978 advocating `health for all by 2000 AD', emphasises the importance of food supply, nutrition, safe drinking water, sanitation, education and agriculture for the health of the people. However, with technological development in diagnostic tools and medicines, there began efforts to look into the human body alone for treating the disease and negating the importance of social factors that were behind them. The pharmaceutical and medical equipment industry played a crucial role in effecting this paradigm shift in medical sciences and in the evolution of the giant medical-industrial complex, Dr. Ekbal said. "Health services then became heath industry."

Formation of new trade pacts such as WTO would accelerate the commercialisation of the health sector. He said as per latest assessments, the health industry with a profit rate of 20 to 22 per cent was the second highest profit-generating sector after arms trade. Even the beverage industry had profit rate of 10 per cent only while computer sector can bring in only seven per cent profit, Dr Ekbal said.

Emphasising that new developments in areas such as biotechnology, genetics and bio-informatics posed both challenges and opportunities, Dr. Ekbal said on the positive side these developments could make great contribution in the diagnosis and treatment of several diseases.

Pro-people's approach

He said collective efforts were now being made by several doctors to advocate a pro-people's view in medicine by utilising the positive sides of the new developments. The Premji Memorial Award was presented to cardio-thorasic surgeon and health activist P.K.R. Warrier at the function by Mrs. Premji, wife of the social activist and actor, the late Premji.

Poet and Premji Trust chairman K.G. Sankarapillai presided. Neelan, Cheriyan Joseph and I. Shanmughadas were among those who spoke on the occasion.

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