Public Health Administration course may be made mandatory

The Health Department is all set to usher in dynamism and professionalism into the State Health Services by developing a dedicated cadre of public health management professionals within the system.

As part of the capacity-building exercise, a fully-sponsored two-year professional course – Master of Public Health Administration – is being launched exclusively for those in Health Service, Health officials say.

The course, being designed by the Department of Community Medicine, Thiruvananthapuram Medical College, is all set to be launched in May this year itself, pending final approval from the Kerala University of Health and Allied Sciences.

Public health experts have always pointed it out to be a major lacuna that the State does not have a separate wing for handling public health, or a cadre of public health specialists to guide policy makers or to manage public health crises effectively.

If the proposal put forth by the Health Department moves ahead, the two-year postgraduate course may become a necessary qualification for anyone wishing to go up the career ladder in the Health Service administrative cadre, to the rank of Deputy Director and above.

“What we have proposed is that a cadre of public health specialists be developed within the system so that they can take ownership of the system and contribute more towards improving it. We want our health system managed more professionally, for which it is important that those within the system have good administrative skills and a clear perspective on public health policies,” a senior Health official says.

For the PG course, nearly 15 seats may be made available every year at the Community Medicine Department.

An MBBS degree will be the basic qualification for applicants.

The course is being designed in such a manner that class room academics will not extend for more than eight or nine months. The training approach will be hands-on, and the ‘students’ will be engaged in managing field activities and projects within the Health Department as part of the course.

The course content will have modules on epidemiology, research, health policy formulation, management, programme implementation evaluation etc, and will be oriented towards the management of Health Services. The government has sought the academic and professional expertise of institutions like the Asian School of Business, Indian Institute of Management, Achutha Menon Centre for Health Science Studies, Public Health Foundation of India, as well as external faculty like the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), UK, in running the course.

“It is good that the State is making public health its priority and giving full patronage to the academic programme under the NRHM.

This is quite an investment that the government will have to find – the fee for the faculty, salaries of the candidates undergoing the course, and salaries of those who will be appointed on contract in their place interim etc. But the investment will be one for the future, says K. Vijayakumar, the Head of Community Medicine, MCH.

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