India: Safer injection campaign a breakthrough success
Marc Koska’s Safepoint Trust, the East Sussex-based, UK charity, reaches over 500 million people in India with its Safer Injection message, alters India’s Health Policy, and is set to prevent millions of deaths and reduce widespread human suffering throughout the country over the coming years.
According to a recent study by Indian Clinical Epidemiology Network (IndiaCLEN), around 65% of injections administered by doctors and other medical staff in India are unsafe because they are performed with reused or unsterile equipment. The result is hundreds of thousands of HIV, Hepatitis C and Hepatitis B infections which, in turn, result in hundreds of thousands of deaths. It seems unthinkable that these diseases and resultant deaths are actually caused by medical practitioners themselves – iatrogenic illness in the extreme - but it simply is the case. In fact, world wide, one child dies every 24 seconds as a result of unsafe injections.
Last November, the East Sussex-based charity, Safepoint Trust, led a major media and public-awareness campaign throughout India in an attempt to do something about the problem. Social entrepreneur, Marc Koska, OBE, inventor of the K1 auto-disable syringe, set up SafePoint Trust in 2006 to educate the public on the dangers of re-using syringes to reduce the misery, illness and deaths needlessly caused through unsafe injections.
Several Safepoint teams traveled throughout India giving their One Injection, One Syringe message to the media at press conferences, solidly, for over a week. In addition, a specially made PSA entitled Sachin (in both English and Hindi) was repeatedly shown on television channels, radio stations and cinemas all over India. As a result, Safepoint's message reached a staggering 509 million people – that’s over half a billion, or half the total population of the country!
Now that the message has hit home for the people as well as the authorities of India, it looks like the tide has turned; there has been a sudden and recent surge in the number of articles in newspapers in India about unsafe injections and the resultant spread of Hepatitis B. For example, Hepatitis outbreak: 2 doctors booked for culpable homicide, Hindustan Times, 22 Feb 2009. The press are now tuned in and are running every angle on unsafe injections!
However, the biggest achievement of the campaign exceeded all expectations. The problem of unsafe injections is completely preventable and would be eradicated if doctors were simply to use auto-disable syringes because (unlike ordinary disposable syringes) it is physically impossible to re-use them. In December, a few weeks after the campaign, Marc Koska returned to India to meet with Dr Anbumani Ramadoss, India’s State Minister for Health, Dr. R.K. Srivastava, Director General of Health Services and Mrs A. Johari, Joint Secretary. During this meeting, the decision was made to outlaw the use of ordinary syringes, making auto-disable syringes mandatory, initially in Central Government Hospitals with regional State-controlled facilities to follow and, later, private hospitals in a second phase – throughout the whole of India.
Click the link to see a video report on the campaign, entitled Making the Point, culminating in Dr Ramadoss's landmark decision: http://gallery.me.com/marckoska#100046
This must be one of the most successful health campaigns ever; the number of prevented deaths and lessening of human suffering in the coming years, from this one decision alone, is incalculable.