Quality of medical research is likely to be enhanced with the Health Ministry all set to expand its network of laboratories

India will soon have a network of viral diagnostic laboratories for managing epidemics and natural calamities. These laboratories will primarily aim to work towards addressing the health needs during epidemics, natural calamities and with an aim to develop tools to prevent outbreaks also.

Aimed at promoting quality medical research and establish appropriate research facilities in the country, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare will roll out five major schemes in the 12 Plan period.

Establishment of network of viral diagnostics laboratories is one such scheme which will be set up with in collaboration with the State governments. Under the scheme, it is proposed to establish six regional laboratories (to be located in North, South, East, West, Central and Northeast), 48 State level laboratories with at least one laboratory in each State preferably in a medical college/hospital and about 200 district level laboratories.

Viral diagnosis today is a major health problem and outbreaks of new viral agents are common phenomena. The inadequacy of specialised laboratories in the country, especially of secondary and tertiary level has been noticed. Such a network and active research programme of a network of laboratories for diagnosis of viral and other infectious diseases will be helpful in generating evidence for interventions for various viral infections which are endemic to the country.

The network of laboratories will include six regional laboratories, 48 State level laboratories and 200 district level laboratories to be set up in a phased manner in the 12th Plan period.

Also part of the major network are the 50 Model Rural Research Units in all the States (at least one in each State and more than one in larger States) so that the units will work in close coordination with the state health providers, national level research institutions and medical colleges in developing models for transfer of technologies in rural settings.

Importantly, all 150 government medical colleges in the country will now have centralised Multidisciplinary Research Units for pursuing research activities.

Globally, health research is predominantly carried out in the Medical Colleges/institutions providing education in allied subjects. Medical Colleges are expected to set the trends in the thinking process and innovations to improve understanding of the diseases and their management. However, over the years it has been noticed that majority of medical colleges have confined themselves to routine patient care and teaching based on conventional methods. Presently, quality medical research is largely confined to a handful of institutions and medical colleges in the country that, too, in a few States only. The standard of papers published, research projects undertaken by the students of post graduate courses and Ph D in most medical colleges are not inspiring. This can be attributed both to the lack of appropriate facilities for conducting research and a lack of motivation and knowledge on the part of faculty and students of medical colleges.

As a result of not-so-satisfactory quality of faculty and facilities, the medical colleges are not pursuing newer methods of investigation for understanding the pathological diagnosis, treatment and management practices. This has not been perceived as a priority area for States and even for many central institutions, thereby affecting the quality of clinical services being provided.

As per the proposal of the Department of Health Research, 30 Multidisciplinary Research Units will be established in the coming financial year, 60 by March 2014, and another 60 by March 2015. These would be in the existing medical colleges with an approximate cost of over Rs 6 crore each with the State government providing requisite space free of cost. Since, only 30 are being set up in the first year, States will have to prioritise the colleges where they want the scheme to be implemented.

The Model Rural Health Research Units will develop State specific or area specific models depending on the disease profile, morbidity patterns and local conditions for transfer of technology for providing better health care services to rural masses. The health professional of State health system will be trained for the use of modern field adaptable methods and will undertake various research projects in close coordination with the State government institutions and others that are relevant and beneficial to the rural population.

The proposal is to set up 50 Units in a phased manner with 10 units each in the first two years of the 12 Plan, 15 Units each in the last two years.  

It has been observed that a big gap exists between Primary Health Centres and Community Health Centres and tertiary care hospitals with state-of-the-art facilities created by the Centre and those by the State governments. Medical doctors working in the State public health system do not get opportunity to get orientation on modern advances in a regular fashion in their settings and hence are unable to utilise advances in medical sciences in their work. Also, wide variations exist in the pattern of diseases prevalent in different geographical areas, the local conditions which require development of State and area specific, disease specific strategy to provide better health care facilities ensuring that the modern technology is available to the general public. The Model Rural Health Research Units will help in bridging this gap.