Amartya Sen's observations | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 15, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 15, 2010


Amartya Sen's observations

We have heard him with respect

Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen has raised some pertinent health-related issues relating to conditions at present prevailing in South Asia. While there has hardly been any question that the broad masses of the countries in the region suffer from some serious health problems, Professor Sen has laid stress on tackling them in a clear and pragmatic manner.
Take the matter of maternal and infant mortality in Bangladesh. For all the efforts expended over the past many years in addressing the issue, maternal health and with that infant health has remained hamstrung by the same factors, although some social indicators have been showing improvement. In wide expanses of the country, which in large measure means the rural regions, an absence of adequate nutrition has afflicted the health of mothers, with the natural result that their ill health has been reflected on their newborn babies. As if that were not enough, the lack of nutrition and the strains involved in childbirth have often led to an incidence of heart disease in these mothers.
One cannot but agree with Sen that the problem must be handled in an overall manner. Towards this a first step seems to have been taken in the form of Indo-Bangladesh Dialogue on Health that brought Sen to Dhaka in the first place. There is certainly a whole area where Bangladesh and India can learn from each other where ensuring quality health for their citizens is concerned. For Bangladesh, seeing that its health infrastructure is yet to reach a stage where it can provide swift and easy access to healthcare to its citizens, it is mutual exchange of notes and experiences in a bid to adopt best practice methods that can be helpful. Professor Sen's emphasis on a coordination of government and non-government efforts in improving medicare facilities makes sense, for unless such coordination comes about, health will remain confined to an enfeebled state.
A significant point, one we believe must come under serious institutional study, that Sen has made relates to the need for meal arrangements for poor children in schools. It is a simple and straightforward thought based on a realisation that poor children in Bangladesh's villages cannot be expected to pursue education on hungry stomachs. Such a provision of meals in the schools will not only be a spur to educating children but will also arrest the decline in dropout numbers we so often experience throughout the year. Moreover, for poor families to know that their children are being given at least a midday meal in school will be a matter of much relief for them.
Amartya Sen's observations merit closer attention. The extent to which we can bring herbal medicines into the healthcare system, the manner in which we can roll back gender discrimination which yet persists in medical treatment are ideas we need to build on.

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