Reviews Website of the week

Websites on South Asian health

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: (Published 01 April 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:842
  1. Chibuzo Osdigwe, fourth year medical student (codigwe{at}
  1. University of Calabar, Nigeria, and BMJ Clegg scholar

    South Asia has about a quarter of the world's population. Bangladesh has the world's highest population density (other than microstates such as Singapore), and India alone, although it occupies only 2.4% of the world's land area, is home to about a sixth of the human race and recently became only the second country in the world to cross the one billion mark ( Many of the people of South Asia live in poverty and have limited access to facilities—fresh, clean water, for example—that people take for granted in other parts of the world, such as Europe and the United States.

    The South Asia Health Forum ( aims to promote health in the region by providing “a platform for the medical fraternity of South Asia to work closely in a spirit of empathy, trust and understanding.” The forum defines South Asia as consisting of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, and states, “Because our people have common problems we will be able to better work out effective solutions.” The site provides evidence based information on specific disease conditions, including AIDS, infertility, and malaria; healthy lifestyle options; and patient-oriented information taking into account the health needs of specific age and gender groups in the region.

    In the same vein, the South Asia Public Health Forum ( provides a means of improving communication and interaction between health professionals either working in South Asia or health professionals with an interest in health in South Asia. The site offers a members' discussion forum and links to regularly updated news and other resources relevant to health professionals.

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    Reproductive health and women's rights are important health issues in te region and the Global Reproductive Health Forum South Asia enables academics, scholars, and activists in these fields to disseminate their work to an international audience. Hosted by Harvard University in the United States, the site ( has in-depth modules on subjects such as domestic violence, dowry, violence against women, and injectable contraceptives.

    Doctor NDTV ( is the site of an Indian daytime television show that is devoted exclusively to patient information. Aimed at the consumer, the site is bright, easy to browse, and is staffed by a large team of named experts in subjects from allergy and immunology through to urology. Each clinician's name is a hypertext link to a page giving his or her career history. There is news about medical advances and an online opinion poll. One question this week was “should homosexuals be allowed to adopt children?”

    One of the good things about the internet is that it can provide a public platform to those whose voices are not normally heard. In the spirit of this, Propoor ( is a portal that meets the needs of non-profit organisations in South Asia. Set up in 1998, it says it is “committed to the dissemination of information and promotion of sustainable development initiatives, in response to the needs of under represented and marginalized sectors of society in South Asia.”


    • Competing interests guest editor Samiran Nundy is on the editorial board of and is one of Doctor NDTV's gastrointesinal surgery experts. BMJ deputy editor Kamran Abbasi and guest editor Zulfiqar Bhutta are on the editorial board of

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