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States show interest in B.Sc community health after PM's push

A scene at Barkar Community Health Centre in Hyderabad. A file photo: Asif Yar Khan.  

The Centre’s proposal to start a B.SC course in Community Health to fill the serious lack of medical practitioners in rural areas is finally picking pace with states like Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh having shown interest in offering the programme. The proposal is one of the 17 action plans that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had assigned to the council of ministers recently.

Faced with a critical shortfall of medical practitioners in the rural areas, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had moved a proposal to start a new three and a half year B.Sc programme to create a new cadre of health professionals who could fill in the gap and offer ambulatory medical services in the rural areas.

The programme to be offered by the State universities will be eligible for funding under the National Rural Health Mission, and the students passing out will serve as community health officers at the district and state levels. They will however not be designated as “doctors”.

“Currently India has a doctor, patient ratio of 0.6:1000, as against the WHO’s standards of 1:1000. India lacks trained public health practitioners apart from being short on doctors. Almost 70 per cent of the population in 6.5 lakh villages has no access to affordable health care. Through this course we hope to create a cadre of health care professionals who can be the first point of contact for the patients,” said Dr. Vishwas Mehta, joint secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Having designed the course, the Ministry has been advocating its implementation with the States, some of which have been sceptical of starting a new course, on the grounds that pharmacists and nursing practitioners have been offering similar services.

The Ministry is also working to offer a “bridge course” in the interim. “The course will help create a public health cadre that is missing in India, but since it will take another four years before the first batch passes out, there can be a bridge course for those opting for nursing studies and Indian medicine with clinical experience,” Dr. Mehta said.

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2021 8:28:24 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/states-show-interest-in-bsc-community-health-after-pms-push/article6342687.ece

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