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Random sample survey of nerve ailments

Worried at the increasing incidence of nerve disorders among Calcuttans, with hardly any data to provide a research backbone, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has embarked upon a random sample survey among neurological patients.

As a first step this January, health workers collected details of 4,000 individuals in the city, where epilepsy is the leading neurological disorder, followed by stroke, Parkinson’s disease, dementia and cerebral palsy.

“This is the first-ever random sample survey being conducted in Calcutta. We will cover every zone and should be ready with the results in three years,” says Dr Shyamal Das, of the Bangur Institute of Neurology, which has been entrusted the project, along with the National Neurosciences Centre, the Institute of Public Health and Hygiene and the Indian Statistical Institute.

The survey will also cover all the slums of Calcutta for a clearer picture of neurological diseases to emerge. Once the data is collected, the doctors will start on the actual research. “We will try to identify the pattern of diseases breaking out among Calcuttans and also pinpoint the rate of incidence,” adds Tapas Banerjee, of the National Neurosciences Centre.

Doctors believe that with the gradual increase in life expectancy and control over infectious diseases, non-communicable diseases like neurological disorders are increasing, prompting the ICMR to initiate such a survey.

Health workers, however, are facing a tough time collecting the data, as several patients have refused to cooperate.

“Most of the resistance comes from people living in Gariahat, Mandeville Gardens and Swinhoe Street highrises, not in the slums. They refuse to cooperate with us, asking what good will it do if they disclose the identity of patients suffering from neurological disorders. They fail to realise that this survey is for their good,” said neurologist Trishit Roy.

“Although all those surveyed are offered ‘total care’ at Bangur Institute of Neurology, they refuse to reveal the identity of relatives who are neurological patients, which is most unfortunate,” added a psychologist and team member.

Against the odds, the survey is on, with field workers visiting houses through random selection, in keeping with the national sample survey design under different municipal wards of Calcutta, worked out by the Indian Statistical Institute.

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