8 States keen on setting up institute of public health

Our Bureau

New Delhi, Aug. 4

The Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) has announced the approval of a one-time grant of Rs 65 crore towards its initial corpus by the Central Government's Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donated Rs 65 crore to PHFI, bringing the total corpus collected by the latter from various other private donors to Rs 200 crore.

Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, and Mr T.K.A. Nair, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, have also received approval to join the PHFI Governing Board.

Another approval reaffirming the Government's support to PHFI was the deputation of Dr K. Srinath Reddy, Professor and Head of Department of Cardiology of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, as President to the Foundation.

"We are in close communication with eight State Governments regarding the setting up of the five Indian Institute of Public Health (IIHP)," said Dr Reddy. He added that amongst the State Governments that had expressed a desire to house and support the IIHPs were West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat, Delhi NCR and Haryana, while informal discussions were currently on with the Government of Uttar Pradesh.

Speaking at the second board meeting of the foundation, Mr Rajat Gupta, Senior Partner Worldwide, McKinsey & Company, said, "The biggest problem plaguing the sector is the under spending on public health. The effort is to make the spending on the public health sector go up from the current 0.9 per cent of GDP to 2-3 per cent of GDP."

Both Dr Reddy and Mr Gupta reiterated that PHFI wanted to create growth in the sector by not only training people through the IIHPs, but also tying up with various civil society organisations at the grassroots level to achieve a greater reach into the rural areas of the country.

"We expect the first IIHP to be fully functional by 2008. Though we were looking at 2011 for all the five IIHPs to be operational, the overwhelming response from the State Governments makes us believe that the target can be achieved in another three years," said Dr Reddy. He added, "At present, we have selected 15 candidates from multi-disciplinary fields for this faculty development programme, and will be training 10,000 workers annually to work at the grassroots levels. We are working closely with State Governments and national programmes to ensure sufficient generation of skills." Among the courses that will be offered at the institutes are a two-year Masters in Public Health (MPH) and Doctoral programmes in various public health disciplines. The curriculum and the number and content of the courses will be finalised in the next six months. The PHFI was founded in March this year as a public-private initiative in the health sector. It seeks to establish world-class public health institutes to train professionals in the field.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated August 5, 2006)
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