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Public Health Education

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In their article “India Badly Needs Public Health Education” (EPW, 8 July 2017), Rajesh Kumar Rai and Theodore Herzl Tulchinsky strongly advocate for the introduction of public health training at the undergraduate level in India. I must congratulate the authors for pitching the introduction of this undergraduate course with conviction in their article.

However, the authors seem to have avoided certain basic, yet important points. As per the article, there are only 23 institutions in India currently offering master of public health (MPH) degrees. But, in addition to this, there are more than 900 medical postgraduate seats in community medicine, as well as 90 seats for a diploma, which offers a comprehensive postgraduate training in public health and is recognised by the Medical Council of India (MCI). Still, only a few state governments utilise the services of these trained public health professionals. Thus, without a proper demand from within the public health system, merely improving supply is not going to work.

Historical facts have also been misinterpreted in the article. While it was the Bhore Committee’s recommendation to introduce preventive medicine as one subject of medical undergraduate training, the Reorientation of Medical Education (ROME) scheme was later recommended by the Srivastava Committee. The authors have not elaborated on how to ensure quality education, post the inclusion of more courses at the undergraduate level.

Moreover, considering that the challenges of public health in India are unique, we cannot follow the set pattern of public health education laid down by the Western world. Furthermore, when the health system itself is not well developed in the country, the training for such a system becomes more complex.

To conclude, the introduction of an undergraduate course in haste, without basic infrastructure in place, will be a prescription for the doom of public health in the long term. In a few years, the country will be full of half-baked public health professionals, which could lead to a further distortion of public health priorities. Incomplete or poor quality public health training is very dangerous, and no better than the absence of training altogether.

Vikash R Keshri

Patna

Updated On : 8th Sep, 2017

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