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It’s surprising why the media has no sense of proportion or numbers when it comes to public health issues.

Maybe it’s not just about public health? Is it the same for economics, politics, sport, education, entertainment etc.? Are we now collectively blind to the most important issues and our minds are occupied mostly by sensationalized trivia?

The public health emergencies that kill and sicken the most people in India have ceased to be interesting for the media, and because the media is so banal about them, so is the general population.

The biggest public health problems are so ho-hum. Speaking of them in society events gets you some polite nods and some yawns. Nobody is interested.

The biggest killers in India are tap water, air and soil. Followed by stuff that we ingest as a part of our food.

The stuff in food is the subject of another article but let’s look at tap water, air and soil here. These are responsible for well over a million deaths every year. At the 2017 rate, dengue would take a thousand years to kill that many in India.

And boy the precautions we take and media space dengue gets! Are we not scared of dengue!

In large parts of India, tap water is not potable. That’s the reason the water purifier brands and bottled water brands are a large, growing, evolved and well developed industry in India. But most of our people can not afford this. They drink the tap water. Surprisingly, tap water is a big killer even among those people who have water purifiers in their kitchen. That’s because most use tap water to rinse their toothbrush before brushing their teeth and their mouth afterwards. The second reason is the use of tap water to wash their salad veggies and fruit, which are not cooked. No masterclass here on water borne diseases – I am assuming the readers of this article know them well.

The second big killer is polluted air. Especially in the northern plains. We hear a lot about the pollution in Delhi. However, most people do not know that this is a problem across the entire northern plains. The air in small towns, villages and cities like Gwalior is much worse than Delhi.

The third is soil. Or more specifically, the diseases carried by human faeces in the soil. This is true everywhere in India because of the high rates of open air defecation or the practice of defecation in the agricultural fields. Contamination of water and food by soil creates a huge disease burden.

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