When a 7 year old homeschooler publishes a book….

This is an account of a seven year old boy and his journey of writing and ultimately publishing a book, sent to me by his mother.

So …
When our son said he wants to write a book, we were like – OK go ahead!
At that time we didn’t really think that he will really be so serious about it…
 
The process started with him asking me to buy a big giant sketch book for him … and then he started putting down his thoughts on scribble pad and then asking me for spellings and then writing in extremely good n neat handwriting on the sketch book… every thought was accompanied with a drawing/sketch
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The process begins

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Neatly written notes

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Writer at work

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The universe

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A dinosaur

and then after a month he told me – Aai, the book is ready!
This happened last year in December!
 
and then I said that’s wonderful … and to tell you all frankly … we kinda forgot about it … as in never really thought we will publish it.
 
Then he heard about my books getting published and launched and he came up to me and asked – why can’t we publish his book …
 
Then the actual work started …
 
And voilà !
We introduced him to the world of Amazon Self Publishing and he himself carried out the entire operations of Amazon Self Publishing and Published it!!!
 
Obviously there was constant guidance from us but to do this entire process by himself with so much of perseverance and enthusiasm … made us really proud!
 
I don’t know how good or bad the book is! I don’t know if it is worth making into a book!
 
I just know that if a 7 year old actually thinks on this line it is commendable.
I just know that if such a 7 year old gets the required guidance and support then he is more confident to do better things in life!
 
Look at this book as a simple piece of creativity and a lot of hard work and passion!!! And then go ahead on Kindle and purchase that e-version …
 
If you require a print copy by coming weekend it should be available…
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Thank you once again for such a wonderful support and thanks a ton for showering so much love!
 
 
#Swashikshan
 
I found this account very fascinating, and hats off to young Agastya on this wonderful adventure. Of course the age of the earth is a hugely debatable issue. I personally lean towards a much more realistic age than what is popularly propagated.
Never the less, there is no denying the fact that if a seven year old homeschooler can publish a book, the sky is truly the limit for them. 
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Block chain and Medicine

As a Medical Doctor I ask myself what are some potential uses of blockchains in healthcare?

Okay, so for those who must be wondering,

What is a blockchain?

home

In general a blockchain is defined as a distributed system which records and stores transaction records.

Blockchain more specifically is defined as “…a shared, immutable record of peer-to-peer transactions built from linked transaction blocks and stored in a digital ledger.”

Blockchain is also similar to a database which stores information, however the main difference is that the data is located in a network of personal computers called nodes where there is no central entity such as a government or bank controlling the data.

How can blockchain be used in healthcare?

  • Drug Traceability where each transaction between drug manufacturers, wholesalers, pharmacists and patients can be tracked to verify and secure drug product information important for tackling issues such as counterfeit drugs.
  • Improvement and authentication of health records and protocols on record sharing.
  • Smart contracts where certain rule-based methods are created for patient data access. Here, permissions can be granted to selected health organisations.
  • Clinical trials where altering or modifying data from clinical trials fraudulently can be eradicated.
  • Precision medicine where patients, researchers and providers can collaborate to develop individualised care.
  • Genomics research via access to genetic data secured on blockchain
  • Electronic health records (EHRs) 
  • Nationwide interoperability
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The future of Total Person Care

As a medical Doctor who is also interested in Total person care and treating each individual as equal and worthy of dignity and respect, blockchain technology gives me the technological possibility of actually implementing my values in practice.

I look forward to more developments in the field of Blockchain in healthcare. God bless.

Top two myths of Indian Healthcare

I often hear that in India poor people are being pushed deeper into poverty when they have to pay out of their own pockets for healthcare, especially when they avail of private healthcare.

We also often hear about the “high cost of healthcare” in the private sector in India which services 70% of India’s healthcare needs.

What are the solutions we hear being proposed by almost every stakeholder?

  1. Universal Medical Insurance 
  2. Increased Government spending on Healthcare

Let me try to explain why these are definitely not the best things that could happen to Indian healthcare @drspmathew.com

 

Whats wrong with Universal Medical Insurance [UMI]?

If there is one thing we know for sure from the experience of other countries, it is this: Universal Medical Insurance ensures in the long run that no middle class or poor person will be able to afford medical care without Medical Insurance. In a sense, UMI does everything to ensure its own survival!

Why does that happen? There are several factors:

Behavioral changes:

When people do not have to pay for their own healthcare: Have you thought through the way people approach their own health when they know they are covered by Medical Insurance and they believe they need not worry about taking care of their own health, especially in terms of the non communicable diseases NCD’s which are the leading causes of death? worldwide? http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs310/en/index3.html

When people have medical insurance and do not have to spend for their own healthcare, it encourages a very casual approach to their own health, which is fueled by the media hype about how medical technology is able to treat every known disease on earth. So, the common attitude is, I have insurance, so no problem. If I fall sick, I am covered by insurance, and medical technology will make me alright. Wrong thinking, friend!

The incidence of NCD’s have skyrocketed in all developed countries and increasing even in the developing countries. There are multiple reasons for this rise but behavioral or lifestyle disorders are so called for a reason: Bad behavior causes bad health, and the false sense of security that insured persons have is a major cause for this behavior according to me. 

As a result of this increasing burden of NCD’s, Insurance companies keep increasing the premiums, and the overall burden on healthcare increases dramatically.

Where do you think Insurance companies get the money to pay your Medical bills?

[Read more on The Relation between Universal Health Insurance and Cost Control   http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199503163321111 ]

Disruption of Free Market economics:

Mediclaim and other forms of Medical Insurance try to dictate pricing based not on actual costing studies but on a collective bargaining with providers. Paradoxically this has been shown to raise healthcare costs and lower healthcare quality, rather than bring them down as one would have hoped.

On the other hand, when people do not have medical insurance and must spend on healthcare out of their own pockets, they take all steps possible to avoid getting sick in the first place. They also behave more responsibly to take care of their own health and are very cost conscious.

This cost consciousness enables enabling free market economy forces in the private healthcare sector to keep costs low without unnecessary bureaucratic intervention. This is what has been happening till now in India to a large extent.

Whats wrong with Increased Government spending on Healthcare?

What really happens when the Government tries to step in to provide Healthcare?

The US spends 17% of its GDP on Healthcare. India barely 4%. Per capita annual Healthcare spending in the US is 8600 US Dollars which equals 551195.50 Indian Rupees, while in India and other such countries, annual average healthcare spending is 88 US Dollars which equals 5641.23 Indian Rupees.

Rising healthcare costs in the US force a major rethink on strategy

In the real world, healthcare costs skyrocket when the Government and Medical Insurance companies step in. All that they are concerned about is their own survival. 

When left to the economies of the free market as with any other industry or business, the price of healthcare will remain reasonable, access and quality will be determined by market forces, and there will be no opportunity for corrupt Governmental agencies to dictate their own often selfish agendas. I am not denying that there are several good people in the Government who sincerely believe that they are trying to do good, but the vast majority do not understand the realities and complexities of the healthcare system.

The Government, instead of wasting tax payers money in areas which are not its core competencies, should rather focus on providing basic things needed for health, starting with good infrastructure and a lot more! In these areas the Indian Government can do well to learn from the developed world!

Poverty and sickness:

But why do poor people in India find healthcare expensive?

Poverty is a big problem everywhere but more so in India. Is the healthcare industry responsible for poverty? A better question would be to ask, why are these people poor? And why are they falling sick?

Many poor people in India fall sick and die, because the environment and infrastructure essential for good health were not adequately provided for by the government and other agencies responsible for the same.

Poor people in India

The Government also did not provide a conducive environment for businesses to function transparently and efficiently, resulting in corruption and low wages for the workers. Of course there are diverse reasons for low wages, each of which is equally responsible for the poor person not being able to pay for healthcare.

The result: Poor people living in unhygienic conditions, getting underpaid for whatever work they do.

And when they fall sick, where do they go? Government healthcare, if available, is crowded and not free either. They lose days waiting in line, losing what little income they earned. So what alternative do they have? Private healthcare, that is fast, efficient, and much cheaper than any healthcare anywhere in the world. Why? Because when the pricing of healthcare is left to market forces, competition keeps costs low as in any business in the free market economy.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/india/most-indians-prefer-private-healthcare-services-over-govt-hospitals/story-KSgqT0rqLIebKzq34wRbJJ.html

Warped Economics:

If this poor person cannot afford the fees at a private healthcare setup, something is drastically wrong in the economics. The poor person is not being paid adequately or unable to save enough.

So, who is really to blame for the poor sick man being pushed into poverty due to sickness? Who is responsible for him falling sick in the first place?

Is it not the Government, which has not provided him basic needs for good health like clean air, pure drinking water and good sanitation? Which has not ensured that he gets adequate opportunities to earn his reasonable livelihood?

Every person in India has a right to claim that the taxes he pays are adequately utilized, not to line the pockets of corrupt politicians through short sighted mega projects in ‘Government healthcare’, but to ensure a life of dignity to the poorest, with the basic needs for good health provided to every citizen of the land.

The WHO definition of Health is “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

The Government can do much more for the health of India if it focusses on what it is paid to do, govern impartially and without corruption, rather than try to enter into Healthcare and muddle it up.  In that way it would be doing a great favor to the health of its citizens.

The Government can mess up Healthcare even if it is relatively non-corrupt like in the developed nations. So one can only guess what is going to happen to Healthcare in India once the Government tries to do anything.

Private Healthcare Providers and the responsible Free Market:

I must salute the private healthcare provider, who despite the odds, is providing a reasonable level of service to large segments of society at a fraction of the cost worldwide. No doubt there are black sheep here also but the model is one that has a hope for a better future, bringing about Shalom Healing to people. 

Let us stop blaming those who are trying to do good, and focus on the real culprits. The people get the Government they deserve, an old saying goes.

I hope I have made myself clear. Neither increased Governmental spending on healthcare nor Universal Medical Insurance is the answer dear friend.

Instead, if it really cares for the health of its people, let our Government take serious steps to improve the basic essentials for good health. Let it restore and improve the quality of our air, water, food and soil.

Let the Government eradicate corruption and red tape within itself, help honest businesses to establish and grow, thus providing people with a reasonable standard of living. This will help to not only improve the health of our nation, but to transform India into a world class nation. Hope better sense prevails in our country. Please pass this on to those who care. Jai Hind!

Air pollution increases risk of childhood obesity and diabetes

A few days back I saw thick black smoke emanating from an illegal roadside garage and stopped to see what was happening.
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Illegal roadside garage emitting carcinogenic fumes

I was shocked to see two men from a roadside garage burning wires made of copper and insulated with PVC, apparently to extract the copper.

In the bargain they were spreading carcinogenic fumes over a residential area housing thousands of citizens blissfully unaware of the deadly air they were breathing.
What are the dangers, you may wonder?
There is increasing evidence for the role of environment in pathogenesis in many diseases. Children below 5 years of age and adults older than 50 years are most at risk. A global assessment of the burden of disease from environmental risks by the WHO has shown that 23% of global deaths and 26% of deaths among children under five are due to modifiable environmental factors. The harmful effects of air pollution on respiratory health are well-known to us and well-established. Air pollution has been linked to many non communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, obesity, cancers and type 2 diabetes.
A new study has again underscored the dire need for a healthier environment. This study has suggested that  exposure to ambient air pollution may contribute to development of type 2 diabetes through direct effects on insulin sensitivity and β-cell function. The study reported in the January 2017 issue of the journal Diabetes showed that exposure to elevated concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter (PM 2.5) had adverse effects on longitudinal measures of insulin sensitivity, β-cell function, and obesity in children at high risk for developing diabetes.
So what can you do?
Here is what I did.
I went to the people burning the wires and asked them what they were doing. They said they were burning wires to extract copper, and this was the first time they were doing this.
I told them the dangers of burning such things, not only on their own health but also on the health and lives of thousands of people staying around.
They immediately doused the flames with water.
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Caught and educated

As a good steward of the environment, and a citizen of this nation, be alert and do your bit wherever you are. You will be blessed by the living God who sees everything and is no respecter of persons, dear reader.
Jesus would surely not approve of or tolerate any evil in the area where he lived. I consider myself to be an ambassador for Christ, and take responsibility for what is going on in the area where I live. So I do my bit to tackle any evil or injustice when I see it.
If each Indian were to do so I am sure India would be a much better place to live in, and future generations will be grateful.
God bless you and India.
Do post what you have done to encourage others.

Mumbaiites continue to breathe poor quality air, except in Borivali

As a citizen of Mumbai and a medical doctor, I am very concerned about the quality of air we breathe. The Hindustan Times reported today that the city continued to have poor air for the second day in a row.The pollutant-measuring indicator air quality index (AQI) fell from 224 on Monday morning to 220 by the evening, both falling under the ‘poor’ category. There was no change in minimum temperatures from Sunday, which was 4.5 degrees Celsius below normal.

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The System for Air Quality Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) predicted an AQI of 220 for Tuesday as well. An AQI between 101 and 200 falls under the ‘moderate’ category, while that between 201 and 300 is ‘poor’ and beyond 301 falls into the ‘very poor’ category.

The Santacruz weather station, representative of Mumbai, recorded the night temperature at 16.4 degrees Celsius, similar to Monday and November 11, which has been the lowest November night temperature since 2012. The night temperature at Colaba, representative of south Mumbai was recorded at 22 degrees Celsius, a degree Celsius below normal.

Officials from the weather bureau said the current wind pattern over the city has led to cool temperatures and a decline in air quality. “From late Saturday night onwards, cool winds from the north-western parts of the country has led to a cooling effect,” said KS Hosalikar, deputy director general, western region, India Meteorological Department. “As a result, due to the process of inversion, cool temperatures have allowed pollutant particles to settle close to the surface. We expect these conditions to continue till Wednesday.”

Meanwhile, day temperatures were more than 2 degrees Celsius above normal as Colaba and Santacruz, both recorded 35.6 degrees Celsius as the maximum temperature. “During the day, the winds are not strong and this has allowed temperatures to rise. However, cool winds during the night are leading to a fall in temperatures,” said Shubhangi Bhute, director, Regional Meteorological Centre, IMD. “The gap between day and night temperatures can lead to health issues such as cough, cold and fever,” Bhute added.

On Monday, Malad was the most polluted location with an AQI of 307 (very poor), followed by Navi Mumbai at 303 (very poor). While majority of the locations in Mumbai recorded ‘poor’ air quality, Borivli had the cleanest air with an AQI of 132 (moderate).072813_1339_4.png

As part of a citizens Forum called the New Link Road Residents Forum, http://www.newlinkroad.wordpress.com we have been pro active to ensure that Borivali and its near by areas are free from man made sources of pollution. We wish that more readers would be encouraged to take steps to combat this menace.

Fun with Liquid Nitrogen in Mumbai

Fun with Liquid Nitrogen in Mumbai
Imagine being able to have liquid nitrogen which is minus 196 degrees Celsius right in your home! For experimenting with, ofcourse. Nitrogen Utsav (56)The team with the various experiments they did.

They started with introducing themselves, Science Utsav, a company, started 4 years ago in Bangalore. Then they invited questions from the children and parents alike. The first experiment was one of pouring out liquid nitrogen into a plastic beaker and putting a fresh rose in it. Nitrogen Utsav (30) Nancy was told to crush the rose and it powdered in her hands!

After this there were various experiments with different objects like cricket ball, banana, chikoo, balloons and Amul cool Milk. Nitrogen Utsav (20)

Pouring Liquid Nitrogen

Pouring Liquid Nitrogen

Yes that is what some of us Mumbai Homeschoolers got to taste, literally of course, at Liquid Nitrogen Science fun organised by Science Utsav, a company that organises science themed birthday parties too.
We met at our home on the 14th of October 2015. There were around 35 of us including a few parents.

Frothy fountain

Puking Volcano

 We also got to see this Puking volcano!
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Pouring out Liquid nitrogenIMAG6118

Experiments in full swing.IMAG6132

Children lining up to get a taste of instant icecream made right before their eyes!

Everyone enjoyed and learnt a lot of physics, chemistry and biology as well! Three cheers to homeschooling and science Utsav!

More parents take to home-schooling their kids, term school studies as rote-learning

Children have always learned naturally from grandparents, parents and elder siblings by accompanying them to the market, to the jungle, to the river, or to the fields. Helping with daily tasks of sowing, harvesting, hunting, food gathering, wood cutting, thatching, attending cattle and so on… children acquire valuable knowledge about biodiversity, medicinal plants, animal husbandry, agriculture, water conservation, house construction, fishing, pottery, weaving, painting … That is EDUCATION!! http://ancientroots.in/children-tomorrows-custodians-of-traditional-knowledge-part-1/

Now it looks like city dwellers have caught on to this and are taking on to homeschooling in a big way. Here is an article in the Times of India by Freny Fernandes….

Seven-year-old Aditi Choudhary is intensely poring over a copy of an atlas and correctly spells out the capital of all nations on the globe when asked. After a pat of appreciation, she resorts to learning math. Nothing out of the ordinary, except that Aditi is getting her lessons at home and not in school for the past three years.

She is being home-schooled, just like the growing number of other children whose parents have taken responsibility as teachers, instead of sending their wards to school for what they call rote learning.

“The schools are preparing them for a rat-race. It is not about gaining knowledge these days. It is all about rote-learning and preparing them for a job market. I do not subscribe to this concept,” says Maya Choudhary , Aditi’s mother.

Shubhangi Bagul, an artist and resident of Louis Wadi, is determined to pull out her fouryear-old son from a school in Thane after a year of observing the way he was being taught.

“We enrolled our son in the junior KG of a popular school with lots of hope. The first thing that disappointed us was that it was overcrowded with 68 children and one teacher to handle them. The school’s approach was a very standard, one-size fits-them all pattern where a child’s natural instinct takes a beating,” she says.

Shubhangi’s husband, Chetanraj, also an artist, says that he wanted his son’s ability at creativity, imagination and understanding to be nurtured and sharpened. “Home-schooling is an alternative education system that can allow holistic growth, “ he says.

Most of the 500-group of parents from Thane and Mumbai who are home-schooling their children say that taking on the role of a teacher requires 100 per cent commitment.

Shruti Patil, who took an infinite sabbatical from her career in architecture to homeschool her three daughters, says, “I have not gone to work ever since I took the responsibility of teaching my children. Every night I have to think of ways to teach basic concepts to them in an interesting way. I even took a course on phonetics from Deborah Rodrigues to understand it better before teaching them. I am constantly reading up on child psychology, etc. to help me teach them better. “

Adapted from May 17 2015 issue of The Times of India (Thane) by Freny Fernandes.