The BMJ's collection on "Health in South Asia" brings together leading health experts from across the region to discuss health priorities and advance the health agenda for the future. South Asia represents a vibrant, dynamic, and fast growing region of the world and is home to nearly a quarter of the world's population.
The collection tracks progress on the core health issues of maternal and child health, infectious diseases, and access to health. The region has witnessed rapid urbanisation with a concurrent rise in non-communicable diseases, smoking, mental illnesses, and injuries. Conflicts, natural disasters, and infectious disease outbreaks periodically stall progress on health indicators, leaving the populations in this region vulnerable to their impact. The private health sector has grown rapidly while public health services remain too fragmented, under-financed, and over-burdened to meet the needs of the majority.
In this collection, authors from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan collaborate to identify evidence based solutions to shape health policy and interventions, and drive innovations and research in the region.
This collection renews our commitment to engage with the people of South Asia, the healthcare community, and governments, and provides a platform to discuss and debate solutions and work together to advance health, peace, and development in the region.
Countries must work together for enduring peace and wellbeing in the region, say Zulfiqar A Bhutta and Samiran Nundy.
South Asians are more susceptible to diabetes and cardiovascular diseases and have worse outcomes than other ethnicities, say Anoop Misra, Tazeen Jafar, and colleagues. They call for urgent action to provide screening and treatment, complemented by population level lifestyle modifications.
South Asian countries must prioritise higher tobacco taxation and other control measures to raise the low levels of tobacco cessation and thus avoid millions of premature deaths, say Prabhat Jha and colleagues.
Rapid unplanned urbanisation in South Asia has overlooked the health needs of poor and marginalised people. Devaki Nambiar and colleagues examine the problems of mental illness and injuries, and call for renewed political and financial commitment to urban health.
Victor Aguayo and Kajali Paintal review the nutritional status of adolescent girls in South Asia and suggest ways to accelerate improvement of their nutrition.
Despite increased specialisation and technology, surgical care in the world’s most populous region is inequitable and remains inaccessible to most people, say Sanjay Nagral and colleagues.
Amit Sengupta and colleagues describe how stagnant public investment in health in South Asia has seen a growth in private practice and may hamper efforts to enable universal health coverage in the region.
Without investment in surveillance and early detection the region remains vulnerable to infectious disease threats, say Buddha Basnyatand colleagues.
Although maternal and child health has improved over the past decade, much remains to be done. Nadia Akseer and colleagues highlight the deficiencies and how to ensure progress continues.
Improving access to healthcare, preventing gender based violence, and providing mental health services are essential to improve the health of people affected by conflict in South Asia, argue Siddarth David and colleagues.
Policy initiatives aiming to improve access to healthcare in South Asia have proliferated in recent years, but are they enough to address widespread health inequity in the region, ask Shehla Zaidi and colleagues?
Soumya Swaminathan and colleagues call for increased funding and regional collaboration to boost research relevant to disease and health priorities in South Asia.