Nursing college diversifies into research

STEP AHEAD: Valli Alagappan (left) and John Waterhouse (right) exchanging the document between Simon Fraser University and Omayal Achi College of Nursing .

STEP AHEAD: Valli Alagappan (left) and John Waterhouse (right) exchanging the document between Simon Fraser University and Omayal Achi College of Nursing .   | Photo Credit: Photo: R.Ragu

With 14 years of experience in nursing education and training, Omayal Achi College of Nursing, an initiative of MR Omayal MR Arunachalam Trust, has embarked on another venture — research. This has come about after their success with their adopted villages in Arakkambakkam near Avadi.The trust's community centre has helped about 40 villages. "We have eradicated diarrhoea caused by water borne infection in these villages," says Sivagami Narayanan, trustee. The nursing college has tied up with the 40-year-old Simon Fraser University in Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada, for collaborative research and exchange of faculty and students. The college has also a tie-up with two other foreign universities for educational programmes.Simon Fraser launched a course in Health Science two years ago with a focus on the health of entire communities based on his Canadian experience. "In 1950s, stomach cancer was a major killer. Today, it is the least cause for death. The treatment has not changed but the policy changes brought about this transformation," explains David R. Maclean, Dean, Faculty of Health Science.Research found that the method used for preservation of meat, such as curing and smoking, was linked to the cancer. Electrification of the entire country and refrigeration brought down the occurrence of this deadly disease, he says."A healthy nation is a three-legged stool," says John H. Waterhouse, provost and vice-president academic at the university. Social equity, justice, biomedical care and political and economic environment of a country are the three legs.The university has launched a master's programme for health professionals called Global Health. "We have a large south Asian population in our country" and hence the initiative, the Canadian university's representative says. The initiative will help countries where public spending on health is very low.Considering that India spends only $17 on a person in a year on healthcare it is imperative that community-based initiatives are taken up, says Arun Chockalingam, director of Global Health. Corporate hospitals can only treat the disease but "we are looking at causes," he says. This includes education, poverty, economic and gender equity, domestic violence, effect of alcohol and stress brought about by economics and globalisation. The aim is to sensitise the Government on the need to educate and improve "upstream" before a disease strikes rather than tackle the disease after it has set in. Dr. Chockalingam says there has been a change in the Government stance considering that proposals have been mooted to set up health schools in the country. But that is only a beginning, he notes. R. SUJATHA

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