ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Remembering the 'Iodine Man'


The death of V Ramalingaswami marks the end of a vibrant public health movement in India. Rama, as he was popularly called in UNICEF when he was a special advisor to late Jim Grant, the executive director of UNICEF, was truly a friend of global children. Rama was the first medical scientist in India to ponder over the irreparable damage done to children by iodine deficiency and other micro nutrients. His experiments on iodine deficiency disorders among children in the 1970s in Kangra Valley of Himachal Pradesh along with Sooch was a path-breaking study to highlight at the village level what damage could be done if there is no iodine in the water and diets of children. The Kangra Valley study became the forerunner for launching the National Goitre Control Programme, which unfortunately was reversed by the salt lobby of Gujarat. The Universal Salt Iodisation (SUI) programme was thus scuttled by the mercenary salt lobby and the present government of India yielded to the pressure tactics of the salt industry who want to keep our iodine deficient children as mute and ‘imbecile’. The best tribute to Rama would be to make USI once again an integral part of a national nutrition policy.

Rama was a great teacher and although I was never his student I learnt much of the medical mysteries of iodine and other micro nutrients from him who had the knack of demystifying the complex epidemiological manifestations to the audience in the simplest possible English. After his retirement from ICMR and AIIMS he worked as advisor of UNICEF and was constantly on demand from the WHO for its several medical missions. Hence he knew how these UN Bodies worked and he shared once his poetic thoughts on UN bureaucracy in the form of UN Employee Prayer:

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