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Place and location influence health

Wednesday, March 10, 2010 10:33:40 AM, Special Correspondent

Aligarh: “The idea that place and location can influence health is a very old and familiar concept in the Western medicine and traces back to the time of Hippocrates when physicians observed that certain diseases seemed to occur in some places and not in other, or the intensity of some diseases was usually 'region specific'”, said Prof. Rais Akhtar, Emeritus Scientist, Centre for Study of Regional Development, J.N.U., New Delhi.


He was delivering lecture on “El Nino, Climate Change and Human Health” at the Summer University programme organized by the Department of Zoology, Aligarh Muslim University.


He said people have also been aware of the process of disease diffusion across geographic regions for centuries.


Prof. Akhtar spoke at length on the environment-health association with special focus on dimensions of medical geography, which is generally termed as the branch of human geography concerned with the geographic aspects of health (status) and health care (systems).


Prof. Akhtar said that the term El Nino (Spanish-Christ child) was originally used by fishermen along the coast of Equador and Peru to refer to a warm current that typically appears around Christmas time and lasts for several months.


El Nino (1998) severely affected the climate scenario in India with extreme heat waves and cold waves that claimed high mortality. Higher temperatures over the coming decades are expected to cause more smoggy days and heat waves contributing to a greater number of illnesses and deaths in the United States, according to international climate scientists.


India will also be greatly affected by climate change. The effect will be experienced in the reduction of the snow cap size in the Himalayas, retreat of glaciers that feed the rivers, an increased flooding of the snow-fed rivers initially and then partial drying up of the rivers, and formation of new lakes and flooded lakes at upper altitudes.


In general climate change will perturb world's various aspects of physical and biological systems which in turn influence human health. Rainfall anomaly and heat wave conditions play an important role in causing ill-health in various ways.


Prof. Akhtar said that there is a growing pressure from developed countries on the developing world to reduce greenhouse gas emission that finally resulted in the failure of Copenhagen Conference.


Prof. Rais Akhtar did his post graduate from Agra University and M.Phil. and Ph.D. from AMU. Prof. Akhtar is a recipient of Leverhulme Scholarship of University of Liverpool. He has also received fellowships from the Universities of Kashmir, Zambia & London. Later he received Visiting Fellowships from University of Sussex, Commonwealth Secretariat, Belgium and French Government. Prof. Akhtar is a member of the Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change and has received a Joint Winner Nobel Peace Prize Award (IPCC, 2007).


He is a visiting Professor, University of Paris. He has delivered lectures on Medical Geography at the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, John Hopkins University School of Hygiene & Public Health, Institute of Public Health, University of Pisa and Nuffield School for Health, Leeds. He has published 14 books and a number of research papers in International Journals.






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