CUTTACK: In a bid to combat heartburn, a common but much-neglected health problem, the SCB Medical College and Hospital has launched a novel programme to educate doctors working at the grassroots and raise awareness in the community by using Telemedicine.
Heartburn has emerged one of the commonest health complaints of modern day, yet lack of awareness, proper diagnosis and treatment is forcing people to suffer. More than seven per cent of the population in Odisha are afflicted by heartburn and the number is rising. The excruciating condition, main symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is no longer restricted to urban and developed regions but is increasingly penetrating into rural areas.
Increasing prevalence is attributed to changes in lifestyle, dietary habits and work pressure in a population that is fast adopting modernity. But proper diagnosis and treatment continues to lag, thanks to lack of awareness among the people and general health practitioners at the peripheral level.
The Gastroenterology Department of SCBMCH is now reaching out to the districts through education programmes and awareness seminars for doctors and general public using the Odisha Telemedicine Network (OTN).
“The seminars and CMEs are held every Friday and three districts covered at a time. Telemedicine has enabled us to reach out to the maximum number of people without having to travel to the field or the districts. We have already covered nine districts of Nabarangpur, Kalahandi, Jagatsinghpur, Bhadrak, Ganjam, Sundargarh, Sambalpur, Angul and Koraput in three sessions and will complete all districts by July,” said head of Gastroenterology Prof SP Singh.
Heartburn significantly impacts quality of life and hampers productivity. It is also associated with Barret’s oesophagus, a condition that can lead to oesophagus cancer. But an overwhelming majority of the sufferers can be treated and managed effectively.
“Most of the time patients are either under-diagnosed or over-diagnosed even though the condition can be evaluated with simple mechanisms. Heartburn can be contained through lifestyle changes or antacids or proton pump inhibitors with the condition rarely leading to cancer”, Prof Singh said.
However, there needs to be a proper diagnosis as it can occur in three conditions like cardiac, acid reflux and psychological stress. The conditions need to be distinguished and treated accordingly, which is the basis of the outreach as part of the World Digestive Health Day theme of 2015, he added.
Literature in Odia and Hindi has also been prepared to generate awareness among the public. The district-level programmes would be followed up by a CME for faculty of medical colleges, which would be conducted through Telemedicine by Dr Rajesh Sainani of Jaslok Hospital, Mumbai on May 29.