Intended for healthcare professionals


Is there hope for South Asia?

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: (Published 01 April 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:777
  1. Zulfiqar Bhutta, Husein Lalji Dewraj professor of paediatrics and child health (,
  2. Samiran Nundy (, consultant gastrointestinal surgeon,
  3. Kamran Abbasi (, deputy editor
  1. Aga Khan University, Karachi 74800, Pakistan
  2. Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi 110016, India
  3. BMJ, London WC1H 9JR

    Yes, if we can replicate the models of Kerala and Sri Lanka

    Two years turned the Indian subcontinent into South Asia. Between 14 August 1947 and 4 February 1948, India, Pakistan (its eastern part would later become Bangladesh), and Sri Lanka all gained independence from the British Empire. Amid the optimism of independence, the new states were comparable in population health and development indicators. Their progress since has been different.

    This issue of the BMJ maps out the extent of the region's myriad difficulties. Non-communicable and communicable diseases ravage South Asia (see pp 781, 794, 807, 811). Tobacco and pharmaceutical industries are exploiting weak legislation to nurture new markets (pp 778, 780, 801). There is little pride in the progress of surgery (p 782), health research (p 826), or postgraduate education (p 779). Yet one challenge dwarfs all these: the desperate state of maternal and child health. Several articles reinforce the message that the scale of morbidity and mortality caused by neglect of mothers and children …

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