Public health education can promote health equity, Health News, ET HealthWorld

Prof. Sanjay ZodpeyPresident, PHFI speaks to ETHealthworld’s Prathiba Raju on the importance and need to strengthen India’s public health institutions. Emphasizing a wide array of learning opportunities that include master’s level programs in public health and in hospital administration and their contribution towards creating trained manpower that can support the expanding activities in the public health space.

As the new president of PHFI, what would be your focus? What transformational change would you like to bring in?

Public health programs and policies are instruments for assuring the health of citizens. A healthy population has higher work productivity and provides an opportunity to fulfill individual and societal aspirations. The Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) will continue to work closely on public health issues of concern for India. The Indian health system, particularly the public sector has demonstrated great resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic. We recognize that efficient and effective health systems, driven by robust and contextual evidence, and guided by equity principles will ensure further health improvements. PHFI will support the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and the state health departments in advancing initiatives in health and sustainable development.

How does PHFI contribute to the public health education space, particularly the various Indian Institutes of Public Health (IIPH) located in different states? How are these IIPHs helping in the public health management space?

PHFI has a vision to strengthen India’s public health institutions and systems capability and provide knowledge to achieve better health outcomes for all. A thrust on public health education through its network of Indian Institutes of Public Health (IIPH) located in states aligns with our vision and mission. The IIPHs in their pursuit of academic excellence, value-based education and providing a conducive environment for overall skill development strive to create a public health workforce that responds to the felt needs of the country. A wide array of learning opportunities that include master’s level programs in public health and in hospital administration are contributing towards creating trained manpower that can support the expanding activities in the public health space.

What kind of changes are needed in the public health programs, which are being offered in India? Is there a need for a standard curriculum to exist in the country when it comes to public health?

The MoHFW designed and published a model Master of Public Health (MPH) course curriculum in 2017-18. The curriculum model is competency-driven, aligned to the needs of India and has a strong focus on public health skills. The Ministry has also taken several efforts in developing such model curriculum in allied and healthcare streams. These are excellent efforts that guide institutions in their efforts. Overall, educational institutions have to produce graduates with the necessary skills and competencies for addressing current and future health challenges.

What are your thoughts on imparting medical education in vernacular languages, as many doctors have criticized the move?

I believe that the purpose of all education and training is to transform individuals for greater individual and societal good. Medical education at its core is a contribution to the greater societal good. In principle, knowledge acquisition is independent of the language of instruction. India has experience of several excellent degree programs and graduates, beyond medicine, in vernacular languages. Medicine has traditionally been offered in English and accordingly, there is access to a wide body of medical books and literature. A transition to vernacular languages ​​may have some immediate short-term challenges in designing learning materials in the vernacular languages. This challenge can be overcome with systematic efforts at the state level to develop high-quality materials in a timely manner. This effort to develop high-quality materials will have to be state-led and undertaken regularly to keep pace with the development of new interventions and therapies.

What kind of impact do you think COVID-19 has brought to the area of ​​policy development in the public healthcare space? Tell us about the approach of PHFI on infectious diseases, epidemiology and how as a nation we should prepare for future pandemics and health security.

COVID-19 reminded the world that we must collaboratively evolve a coordinated response to health challenges. India demonstrated to the world that we can effectively manage the health challenges posed by the pandemic, produced potent vaccines and more importantly, calibrated a coherent response that evolved with the magnitude of the challenge over the past two years. We have provided our population with a digital vaccination certificate at a scale that is unparalleled in the world. This is a matter of pride for all citizens. The COVID-19 pandemic reminded us of the central role of the public health system, in detection, management and service delivery. The IDSP of the Government is sensitive to the evolving needs and under the oversight of the Ministry is geared up for training district epidemiologists and surveillance teams.

PHFI works very closely with the national and state governments. During the COVID times also, we contributed technically and on the ground through our institutional network. Going forward, we are planning to establish a dedicated multidisciplinary team to work on infectious disease epidemiology and the economic consequences of such diseases to highlight the need for pandemic preparedness and health security.

With rising zoonotic diseases like COVID-19, and monkeypox how do you look at One-health? What kind of surveillance strategies should be implemented?

Human health is influenced by multiple factors which are outside the conventional health sector. An excellent example is the provision of water, sanitation and education. Similarly, there is now a clear acknowledgment that the health of people, animals and the environment are interrelated. One-health integrates these ideas to address root causes. Surveillance systems will have to eventually keep pace globally within the larger One-health framework. This will require greater coordination between relevant departments and operational clarity at the state and district levels.

How has 2022 been for the healthcare industry and what transformations should we see in 2023?

The recent pandemic has reminded us that we must invest in primary healthcare systems. We need prompt diagnosis with laboratory support, timely referral transport and state-of-the-art clinical care. The healthcare sector will have to build these services on the background of a sufficient and skilled workforce. We learned about the potential of digital health and its ability to transform last-mile access. We can witness accelerated growth in the vaccines and biologicals market in addition to our dominance in medicinal products. The potential of yoga in holistic health is also increasing and we are likely to see it emerge as a global phenomenon in the next decade.

  • Published On Dec 5, 2022 at 05:00 PM IST

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New program to guide First Nations students into health, education and arts

A new CDU introductory program is set to help guide First Nations people into studying health, education and arts.

The vital knowledge of First Nations people will be harnessed in a new program to support students into tertiary studies in health, education, and arts.

In January 2023, Charles Darwin University (CDU) will launch the First Nations Introduction to University for Health, Education, and Arts program, giving a taste of university for students interested in a career in health, education or arts.

Split into two interlinked units, the program will give foundational academic skills and knowledge in the students’ proposed future study area.

The program was co-designed with First Nation and non-First Nation educators and professionals and will include guest speakers from local organisations.

Co-developer and Gudanji and Wakaja woman Dr Debra Dank said the inclusive program aimed to empower students and give them the confidence to use and expand their knowledge.

“This program gives students the opportunity to understand the importance of the knowledge they bring,” Dr Dank said.

“It’s about building the sense of resilience of First Nations knowledge and the ongoing validity and broadening of that knowledge framework, so we can embed some Western knowledge ways and students can see how they fit into the university space.”

The program, delivered at CDU’s Casuarina campus in Darwin, will connect students with a First Nation’s student mentor and an academic tutor who will provide both cultural and academic support.

“This will be a bit different. “There will be a very strong commitment to utilizing Aboriginal knowledge within this space,” she said.

Students who complete the program will be given assistance in choosing university pathway options at the end, such as qualifications at certificate, diploma or degree level in health, education or arts.

“We’re hoping when students come along, they’ll get really excited about how they can build their place within the tertiary institution with new knowledge and skills about how they can access university places,” Dr Dank said.

“The more First Nations people we have actively engaged in the dissemination of education, arts and health, the better a place we’re all in.”

Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory Chief Executive Dr John Paterson said there were critical shortages of First Nations personnel in both areas, in particular health.

“This is a great opportunity to grow our own workforce in the Northern Territory,” Dr Paterson said.

“There are plenty of opportunities for First Nations students and people who want to study and undertake tertiary studies and strengthen their capacity and upgrade their skills to take on very important roles.

“If you pursue education you can teach and look after your own and if you pursue health, you’re looking after the health and wellbeing of your family and other countries.”

First Nations people from across Australia are eligible to apply. There is no fee for the program and those living outside the Greater Darwin area will be given financial support for travel and accommodation.

The program will run for four weeks from January 16 to February 10, 2023, from 9am to 4pm.

Learn more about the First Nations Health, Education and Arts University Introduction Program here. Applications close on December 1, 2022.

This program complements CDU’s suite of First Nations enabling courses, including the Pre-Law program, the Pre-Business program and the Pre-Accounting program.