‘Adapting western concepts to address public health problems in India has its limitations’

Participants in the Indo-U.S. workshop in Mysuru on Monday.

Participants in the Indo-U.S. workshop in Mysuru on Monday. | Photo Credit: M.A. Sriram

A seven-day-long Indo-U.S. workshop on “Molecular Epidemiology of Infectious Disease: Translational Research from Bench to Bedside to the Field” began here on Monday with Purnima Madhivanan, Associate Professor in Health Promotion Sciences at University of Arizona, U.S., explaining the limitations of adapting western concepts of research on public health problems in India.

Participating in the opening session of the workshop organised by JSS Academy of Higher Education and Research (JSSAHER), Mysuru, in association with Public Health Research Institute of India (PHRII), Mysuru, Dr. Madhivanan said public health problems were increasingly shifting from rich countries to poor countries and from rich populations to poor populations even within the western world.

Noting that most collaborations between western world and non-western world in the field of scientific research and transfer of skills benefit the former, she hoped that this workshop shifted the balance. “Even when research is coducted among non-western population as a genuine collaboration, it is too often an export-failure from the West. We take a western concept and think it will work in our culture and our communities and most the times it fails”, she said.

Dr. Madhivanan, who is also the Director of PHRII, referred to the aid programmes and said all the grants that come to India seek to adapt a western model to our communities. But, it doesn’t work, she lamented before calling upon the young scientists and epidemiologists in India to contribute to the efforts and ensure that “we have a seat at the table when discussions and decisions are made”.

Emphasising the need for a recognising diversity, local knowledge and a problem-based approach to address major public health problems using appropriate technology, Dr. Madhivanan said the development of a truly global partnership in science and epidemiology can not only address the problems of non-western populations, but also shed light on current limitations.

Managing Trustee of PHRII, Mysuru, Anjali Arun, in her address at the opening session of the workshop, said research in molecular epidemiology in the context of COVID-19 had made a huge progress in the light of the global pandemic. A routine google search on the subject throws up more than 6 crore articles, she claimed and added that research in molecular epidemiology had made huge contributions to public health.

She said India had done well during the COVID-19 crisis with the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) and Government issuing timely guidelines and policies to tackle the pandemic.

Dr. Arun also emphasised the importance of collaboration between diagnosis and research in the field of epidemiology.

Earlier, Prashanth Vishwanath, Director of Research, AHER, said the seven-day workshop being held from March 21 to 27 will have experts including Lee Riley from University of California at Berkeley, Karl Krupp and Kerry Cooper from the University of Arizona, and Matam Vijaykumar from the Univesity of Toledo address the participants.

“Participants attending this workshop will acquire hands-on skills about molecular biology techniques such as PCR and Realtime PCR; analysis of gene sequence data; confocal microscopy; and methods of conducting public health research studies using appropriate statistical tools. In addition, the workshop contains focused sessions on manuscript and grant writing. This workshop helps the medical and biomedical researchers, who can further educate their team members in their respective organisations”, he said.

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Printable version | Jun 21, 2022 10:11:33 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/adapting-western-concepts-to-address-public-health-problems-in-india-has-its-limitations/article65246098.ece