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The COVID-19 Crisis in India: How You Can Help

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While Americans are being vaccinated, COVID-19 is on the rise in India. Inequality is at work.

“I will bear the burden forever.”

These are the words of Avatans Kumar who failed to perform the final burial rites for his father who died of COVID-19 complications in the summer of 2020 in Mumbai, India.

As the eldest of four children, Kumar would have been responsible for performing these final rites. But with global lockdowns, neither he nor any of his siblings could be with their father when he died.

“Who can take? [that burden] from me? It will stay on my soul, ”says Kumar. “He had a good life. He did not deserve that.”

Performing the final rites, known as antyesti or antim sanskar, is a sacred practice in Hinduism.

It’s been 15 months that we remember a time before COVID-19. Any other year travelers could easily have visited India, but not this year.

Many Indian expats feel trapped and helpless, unable to visit sick or aging parents in their home country. They are unable to remotely coordinate care efforts or, as in Kumar’s case, perform final rites for a parent.

Atlanta-based journalist Archith Sheshadri had a different experience. His family was visiting India when the pandemic first started in 2020, but they managed to return to the United States safely.

Since then, Sheshadri has been actively reporting on the impact of the pandemic on both sides of the world, observing the stark contrast between the US and India.

“In April 2021, while most Americans were eligible or already vaccinated (around 40 percent), India only had a vaccination rate of 2 percent,” he says. “How ironic that the United States has an abundance of vaccines and a large group is still reluctant to take the dose.”

Akashi Sahasrabuddhe’s (name changed) bedridden 84-year-old mother contracted COVID-19 despite around-the-clock care. The infection revealed a number of previously undiagnosed health complications.

Although the elderly Sahasrabuddhe has now recovered from COVID-19, her life is still at risk due to her health complications.

Sahasrabuddhe asked for anonymity to protect her siblings and extended family from this reality, fearing they might make dangerous travel plans to visit the sick matriarch if nothing can be done.

In India, access to medical care varies greatly from region to region. It is also influenced by social and political influence.

Shanti Rao (name changed) from Bangalore, India recently learned that her father tested positive for COVID-19. Her local hospital had a 1 nurse to 8 patient ratio, and the overwhelmed doctors couldn’t visit every patient.

Rao’s family arranged the expensive home intensive care unit (ICU) option with routine telemedicine services from the local health department. Rao admitted that her family’s financial situation made this possible.

But in some cases it is not easy to find care.

When Ajay Samant became infected with COVID-19, the Samant family found a bed for him in an intensive care unit 300 kilometers away.

As a middle-class family, they could not find local care and had to be temporarily evicted so Samant could get the care he needed. The rest of the family lived in makeshift accommodation nearby while he recovered.

Kumar, a Chicago-based columnist, remains particularly critical of the socio-economic inequalities that exacerbated the crisis.

“The rich can cross the line and have the means to talk about their illness, while the poor have no one to speak for them,” he says.

The crisis has also revealed a severe shortage of trained staff and reliable medical infrastructure. In a country of 1.3 billion people, this is a health crisis.

According to a report by the Migration Policy Institute, India is the world’s premier source for some of the best medically trained workers such as doctors, doctors and nurses.

In a health crisis of this magnitude, India simply doesn’t have enough trained medical staff to cope with it.

The irony has not escaped most of the Indians.

Rao, Sheshadri, and Kumar’s observations reveal the inequalities in access to medical care – not just in terms of trained doctors or better-equipped facilities, but also in terms of a fundamental inequality in relation to the affordability of any medical care.

During a panel at the virtual Jaipur Literary Festival, Yamini Aiyar, President of the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi, criticized both local and international responses to the COVID-19 crisis.

She pointed out that grassroots help is most needed.

While vaccines are urgently needed in many countries, such as India, citizens of other countries have hesitant vaccination. According to Aiyar, this amounts to hoarding vaccines.

It encourages world leaders to consider coordinated efforts to provide an equitable response to the pandemic’s humanitarian crisis.

Many interviewees asked for anonymity.

Some didn’t want their families to know about it. Others didn’t want their friends and neighbors to know they had experienced COVID-19 for fear of stigma.

However, others believed that their privileged positions in their communities would be frowned upon in a country with severe imbalances.

Kumar cautiously noted that aid for some is conditional. This contributed to an atmosphere of suspicion, especially among those at the deepest depths.

Another Indian expat, Devangi Samarth (name changed), notes that while many organizations do a good job, a lack of transparency has left people unsure of whom to trust.

Ordinary people in India are banding together to address the humanitarian aspects of the crisis.

Apps like Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Skype have become the lifelines of connection and information exchange.

You have enabled grassroots efforts to mobilize resources, organize blood donations, arrange financial aid, and remotely care for loved ones. Efforts have been made to make beds for the sick and to obtain bottles and oxygen concentrators.

While the shortage of care persists, local initiatives like Find A Bed also connect patients to beds. Large companies like Honeywell, Texas Instruments, Twitter and others are raising and donating funds and care units to hospitals across India.

Home cooking

In some cases, volunteer chefs prepare homemade meals for entire families with COVID-19 for free or at low cost.

Many cooks raise money to provide meals to people who feel sick, as well as medical professionals who care for COVID-19 patients.

Minneapolis-based chef and author Raghavan Iyer believes that the convenience of traditional Indian foods, many of which are based on the Ayurvedic tradition, can help the sick to heal.

“The power of the food we grow up with shapes our psyche, especially when we are confronted with an illness,” says Iyer.

For medical care

Aiyar also points out that in many remote communities, women’s groups provide primary care when institutional care is not readily available.

In a small village in central India, Nandurbar, a local doctor developed infrastructure to deal with a COVID-19 surge even before the surge occurred in September 2020.

Kumar noted that some doctors in rural areas offer telemedicine services or treat patients for free.

Groups of Indian expats have taken the lead in fundraising for the procurement and shipping of oxygen concentrators, liquid oxygen, PPE masks and protective gear.

Still, so much more is needed.

“At the end of the day we certainly don’t want to be complacent and think, ‘Yes, I am vaccinated’ or ‘Yes, I can lower my mask’ while people all over the world struggle to breathe,” says Sheshadri. “We have to address the human problem.”

COVID-19 has affected everyone, but no two experiences are the same.

In India, COVID-19 has worsened income inequalities, created food insecurity and exacerbated mental health problems. Medical care, relief supplies and humanitarian aid are urgently needed.

At a time when we may not be able to offer physical support, Mother Teresa’s words provide guidance: “Charity has nothing to do with compassion. It’s about love. “

Nandita Godbole is an Atlanta-based food writer of Indian origin and author of several cookbooks, including her latest “Seven Pots of Tea: An Ayurvedic Approach to Sips & Nosh”. Find her books in places that have great cookbooks and follow her on @currycravings on any social media platform of your choice.

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Women’s Health

Ellen Noble: Fostering inclusivity, opportunity and health awareness in cycling

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Ellen Noble is stepping down from professional cycling indefinitely to make her health a priority, but she will continue her mission of promoting inclusivity, opportunity and health awareness in the sport.

In an interview with Cyclingnews, Noble said she wanted to provide opportunities for girls and young women through ENCXQuest and Noble Racing Mentorship Program Grant initiatives.

“It is possible to still be inclusive and create community, be it in person or remotely. I love this connection. I didn’t always fit in when I was in school, so it really means having a group of people we can all fit into. ”A lot to me, and I want to keep finding ways to do that. I don’t want to stop doing my initiatives outside of racing and I hope I can do more of them now that I have more time. I intend to stay in the sport even if it’s not on the track, “said Noble.

Noble has ongoing health problems after being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease in 2018, an autoimmune disease that affects thyroid function.

Noble told Cyclingnews that it took some time to find ways to relieve her symptoms through visits to different doctors, but that she was slowly putting together treatments and lifestyle adjustments that work for her.

“In the last two years since my diagnosis, I’ve had a lot of small wins. Every time you work with someone new, you learn a little and I take small pieces from each practitioner and I slowly build a solid foundation for health, which is my goal, ”said Noble, who uses acupuncture to provide symptom relief has found .

“Practitioners in many circles believe that autoimmune diseases and chronic diseases can be hibernated, they can never be cured, but they can be let dormant. The ultimate goal for me is to put it into hibernation and not struggle with flare-ups. “

Noble said her health was in delicate but good shape when she suffered a fall earlier this year that broke her spine in three places. Although she was now almost completely healed, the injury opened a void in her health that was difficult to fill.

“I still have back pain, my back is healed, but it didn’t just go away. I don’t think injuries, be it a broken bone or illness, aren’t always linear, ”she said.

“I think this is how my autoimmune disease changed after I broke my back. When I broke my back in April, I was doing pretty well. I felt healthy, my symptoms were regulated, and I felt pretty good. I just wasn’t in my best shape and my results weren’t great, but I felt good.

“That was a bridge too far for me. My health was still fragile and the physical trauma of breaking my back shook my health as we were in a delicate balancing act. I came back and rode and worked at the gym and then hit a wall in August. Physically I couldn’t anymore and my nervous system was at its limit. “

Noble hasn’t ruled out the possibility of a return to professional racing; However, she has not set a schedule for her sabbatical. Instead, it focuses on other goals within the sport that offer rewards beyond performance and results.

“I’m still trying to find out everything. I take my time and I feel like this is a great opportunity for me and I feel grateful in this room where I can do something new. I still want to be involved in the sport because I love cycling, I love bikes and most of all I love what bikes can do for people, from racing to commuting to rides around your neighborhood with friends of kids. I want to pass this message on. I also think bikes are a great platform to talk about physical and mental health, ”said Noble.

Connection and acceptance

Noble launched ENCXQuest in 2017, which accommodates 12 to 18 girls and young women ages 15 to 23 to experience an all-women cycling camp that includes training, technique building, yoga, and education on nutrition, sponsorship, and the sport in general.

“The camp started as an answer to my question: What did I want and need in sports when I was 15? When I was in high school, sport opportunities were lacking for women my age. There were many junior camps and, despite my requests, I was never admitted. When there weren’t any options for the next generation, I decided to do it myself, “said Noble.

Camp has been postponed in 2020 and 2021 due to Covid-19, but Noble is preparing to host its fourth edition in 2022. Noble stated that ENCXQuest relies on donations and industry partners. It’s also an application-based program that offers places for women of all backgrounds, whether they can afford it or not.

“We want to make sure that the athletes who are eligible for the camp regardless of their financial status can participate. I’m delighted that space has been created for these athletes that might otherwise not have been created, ”said Noble.

“People are very supportive and so we can operate through donations from very generous people who also have the mission to get more girls and young women on bikes and to create a space for young women to have fellowship. Yes, it’s about bikes, but it’s also about 12 to 18 girls who spend the week together and find that having more women in your circle is pretty cool. “

While the ENCXQuest took a break due to Covid-19, Noble launched a virtual platform in 2021 to create opportunities for women in cycling. The Noble Racing Mentorship Program Grant Fundraiser is an attempt to support and mentor the next generation of young women in cycling. It offers seven athletes monthly group and one-on-one meetings, as well as financial grants to cover their entry fees, travel expenses, and coaching.

Noble wants to continue both initiatives while finding new ways to promote inclusion and opportunities for women in cycling.

When asked where she sees herself in the future in sport, especially in terms of her initiatives, Noble said, “I don’t think I’m alone in this, but I hope the sport continues. We see these little advances in different areas. We’re seeing more colored riders in the results, on the start lists and on the podium and it’s amazing. The same goes for transporters. Seeing acceptance grow wider, which is amazing to see, has been my mission since the beginning of the quest to promote that inclusivity.

“I hope more people understand that bikes are powerful and can change lives. The more people from all backgrounds – no matter where you come from or who you are – the more people we can bring on bikes mission. If you have love in your heart and want to ride a bike then you are friends of mine. It’s a great way to connect. “

Noble will take the time it takes to get better and one day we may see her at the highest level of racing again, but even if we don’t she’s sure she has a place in cycling .

“My comeback to cycling is not guaranteed. I won’t be racing again if I don’t fix my health, but my goal is to fix that and if I can I’ll be back at the track. Anyway, I’m not done with cycling yet, “said Noble.

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Women’s Health

New York electeds rally around Planned Parenthood, assure NYC as safe haven for abortion seekers

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As the right to abortion is threatened in states across the country, elected officials from New York gathered in Lower Manhattan on Monday to discuss planned parenting.

With abortion fast becoming one of the most controversial issues of the year and fear of losing the right to vote, a bevy of city and state officials assure New Yorkers that they will not lose access to these health services.

While touring Planned Parenthood at 26 Bleecker Street, Congressman Carolyn Maloney, Senator Brian Kavanagh, councilor Carlina Rivera, famous journalist and activist Gloria Steinem, and more brought the facility’s importance to the fore today more than ever. Maloney said the site is already seeing an influx of patients from overseas.

Congressman Carolyn Maloney. Photo by Dean Moses

“We just visited Planned Parenthood and they are already telling us that people are flying in from Texas for treatment. I am so proud that Planned Parenthood is in the district I represent and that it does such a good and wonderful job helping women and girls, ”said Maloney.

“Reproduction rights are no longer chopped off. They were thrown away the entire time I was in Congress. Vote here and vote there. They no longer scratch our rights. They ram them into the ground, ”she added.

That influx coincides with the case of the Dobbs Supreme Court over the 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi, the ongoing litigation over the six-week abortion ban in Texas, and efforts to escalate denials of health care, including abortion and contraception. In the Dobbs v Jackson case, the state of Mississippi argues that the power to regulate abortions should be a state issue, not a state issue. As the court battle continues with a verdict due by the summer of this year, 21 states are on the verge of making abortions illegal or extremely difficult due to strict guidelines such as the “Heartbeat Laws”.

Chair of the Oversight and Reform Committee alongside her work in Congress, Maloney is pushing for a five-part plan to tackle the attack on women’s rights. Citing discussions she had with incestants aged 10 and over who became pregnant, she called abortion abolition “cruel” and “inhuman”.

Maloney’s initiative sees the constitutional change in equality through the passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would establish a legal right to abortion across the country while cracking down on contraceptive restrictions.

Gloria Steinem is all too familiar with this fight. Steinem, who fought for women’s rights for decades, called this latest controversy an attack on democracy.

Journalist and activist Gloria Steinem. Photo by Dean Moses

“If we cannot control ourselves, there is no democracy. When Hitler was elected and he was elected, the first thing he did the very next day was padlock the family planning clinics and declare abortion a crime against the state. Mussolini did the same. Dictators know that they have to control reproduction, ”Steinem said.

While this is extremely worrying for those living in the affected states, many in attendance reassured New Yorkers as well.

“New Yorkers need to know that their right to abortion is safe here in this state. Regardless of what happens in the Supreme Court, ”said Sonia Ossorio, President of NOW-NYC.

Tiffany Caban. Photo by Dean Moses

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Gynaecologist busts some common PCOS myths

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Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) has become one of the most common hormonal problems in women today. Recent data shows that at least three in ten women are diagnosed with it, and six in ten women diagnosed are teenagers, said Dr. Vaishali Joshi, Senior Obstetrician and Gynecologist at Kokilaben Ambani Hospital.

“PCOS is a disease of civilization that has problems like irregular periods, scant menstrual flow, acne, excessive body hair, weight gain, darkening of the skin, along with polycystic bulky ovaries (PCOD) on sonography and hormonal imbalance including high insulin resistance and excess male hormones, “she said.

The following should be noted with PCOS (Photo: Getty / Thinkstock)

“Many young women are mistakenly diagnosed with PCOD instead of PCOS because some symptoms are similar. Hence, there are many myths and facts surrounding PCOS too, ”she added.

* PCOS only occurs in young women in their early twenties or thirties: PCOS can occur at any time between the ages of 18 and the age of perimenopause.

* All women with PCOS have PCOD: Polycystic Ovaries found in 20 percent of healthy women. At the same time, not all women with PCOS necessarily have PCOD ovaries on sonography.

* PCOD ovaries cause abdominal pain: PCOD ovaries are small (<10 mm) large water sacs (cysts) and are arranged around the periphery of the ovary in a pearl necklace pattern. They don't cause pain or discomfort. The ovarian cysts that cause pain are at least 3 cm in size and are not found in PCOD.

* Irregular periods and poor period flow lead to weight gain and PCOS: Culturally, menstruation has been viewed as a process by which unhealthy blood is thrown from a woman’s body. Skipping periods or decreased flow is believed to prevent this process and lead to the accumulation of fat and obesity. Unfortunately it’s the other way around. The weight gain leads to a hormonal imbalance and therefore an irregularity in the periods and development of PCOSsaid Dr. Joshi.

* PCOS only occurs in overweight women: women with acquired PCOS gain weight from poor lifestyle choices. Almost 80-85 percent of PCOS women are overweight. However, PCOS can occur in women of normal body weight, especially those with a family history.

* All women with irregular periods have PCOS: Period irregularities can also occur with thyroid diseases, hyperprolactinemia, eating disorders, low hormonal levels induced by overuse, especially in long distance runners.

* Acne is always due to PCOS: acne or pimples on the face can have several causes. PCOS is one of them. The most common are skin problems, allergies, or dandruff.

* Women with PCOS have difficulty getting pregnant: PCOS causes anovulation, which means stopping an egg from being released every month, but does not stop it completely. Women with PCOS have inconsistent and delayed ovulation but can get pregnant naturally. Most of the time, having missed periods makes them unaware that they are pregnant, said Dr. Joshi.

* Drugs Can Cure PCOS: Drugs are usually used to treat the symptoms of PCOS, depending on the treatment needed, such as infertility or regular menstruation. These treatments do not address the cause and therefore are not curative drugs. PCOS is a disease of civilization and the cure is achieved through regular exercise, diet changes and weight loss.

* Losing weight can cure PCOS completely: Unfortunately, PCOS is a lifelong disease. A Weight loss of at least 10 percent leads to an improvement in symptoms by reducing hyperinsulinemia and excess male hormones. One has to continue with lifestyle measures and weight loss should be maintained.

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