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Hookworm, main cause for anaemia HeAlth & Lifestyle

R.Sujatha

Some startling truths about the number of anaemic people in lower socio-economic group

— PHOTO: V. GANESAN

CARE NEEDED: Walking barefoot can cause hookworm infestation which may ultimately result in anaemia.

CHENNAI: The recent preventive health camps held across the State for the lower socio-economic group threw up some startling truths about the number of people who are anaemic. The population tested for haemoglobin level fell short of the standards set by the World Health Organisation that states that a level of 12-14 gm is normal for males in developing countries. But of the 12,95,917 people tested at the camps held across the State, only 1,63,138 persons came under the normal category, states the figures from the Directorate of Public Health. The samples taken were grouped according to the haemoglobin level in blood.

“In India anyone with less than 8 gm is considered severely anaemic and those with less than 10 gm, moderately anaemic. The government has now taken up improving the health of the severely anaemic persons,” says Public Health Director S. Elango.

Doctors say hookworm is the main cause for anaemia, especially among children who do not wear footwear or wash hands before eating. “It should be mandatory for children to observe these rules. Through the school health programme we are taking care of this,” Dr. Elango says.

One of the initiatives of the government is de-worming that is done every six months for young children, says Saradha Suresh, head of Institute of Child Health. “Fifty per cent of people in the lower socio-economic strata and 10 per cent in the high socio-income group are anaemic,” she says. “This is because of the diet pattern. Better intake of vegetables, pulses and milk means lesser worm infestation.”

About 20 per cent of children below one year are anaemic and the percentage increases with age, Dr. Saradha notes. Children get their iron source from their mother. But mothers themselves do not supplement the iron they lose after every pregnancy and turn anaemic. The habit of drinking tea and coffee also affects absorption of iron. “Caffeine in the beverage contains phytates, a chemical that blocks iron absorption. The vegetarian diet should include enough green, leafy vegetables, at least every week.”

Kalanjiyam Trust that is working with villagers in Madurantakam has found that de-worming alone will not help. “We did a survey in Pavunjur and found that of the 106 school students nearly half had never worn slippers. And women are more seriously affected by hookworm infection,” says Anu, a volunteer working with the Trust. A person who eats meat every day should include red meat to get the iron the body needs, she says.

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