On a `Health' mission

`Awareness campaigns among adolescents on health and related issues should be promoted.'

`Awareness campaigns among adolescents on health and related issues should be promoted.'  

WHEN THE Karnataka Government decided to revamp its Health Department last year for meeting the challenges of the changed socio-political scenario of the State, the Herculean task of

assessing the performance of the department and suggesting steps for making it effective fell on the shoulders of a Keralite. The decision was unanimous and all those who knew the man who was assigned this task - Dr. T. V. Sekhar, Assistant professor at the Population Research Centre of the Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore - had full faith in him.

It was Mr. Sekhar's study funded by the Ford Foundation that served as the very foundation of the reforms in the health care sector of Karnataka.

The first rank holder in Master of Sociology from the Calicut University a few decades back is now more or less a Kannadiga than a Keralite.

A native of Malappuram, it was through the occasional visits to his ancestral home that he maintained his ties with the State. Of late his is more involved in the health issues of Kerala.

It was the Reproductive and Child Health (RCH) project sponsored by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare that helped Dr. Sekhar to serve his home State in a better way.

Though settled in Bangalore, Mr. Sekhar has a remarkable understanding about the health care issues relating to Kerala and even has a priority list for the State health sector.

This understanding is the basic tool of this social scientist who believes that the social scientists and demographists are in a better position to understand social changes and development and public health related issues.

His book 'Migration and social change', which specially referred to Kerala, a State surviving on the 'Money Order economy', was also well received.

While showering praise on the achievements of the State in the health care sector, Mr. Sekhar invites your attention to the not so bright areas that exit in the social fabric of Kerala, which he describes as ''regional differences within the State's public health care system''.

``In Kerala, the incidence of girls being married off before attaining the legally marriageable age of 18 is just 7 per cent. But in Malappuram district, this is 30 per cent,'' points out Mr. Sekhar. The same is the case with immunisation, says Mr. Sekhar, pointing out that Malappuram district could achieve only 75 per cent success against the State's performance of 95 per cent.

When highlighting the need for a State-level health policy, Mr. Sekhar also advocates awareness campaigns among adolescents on health and related issues.

He is also ardent pleader for bringing in regulations to control the functioning of private hospitals and clinics, which have become a lucrative business in the State. Mr. Sekhar also holds some bold views regarding charging user fees, which is the new mantra in the health sector and the reforms that are taking place at a rapid pace.

``If you are going for user's fee in Government-run hospitals and other similar centres, there should certainly be a mechanism to cater to the needs of the people below poverty line. More over, any reform in the health sector should take into account the case of strengthening of the service offered by the Public Health Centres and Government hospitals,'' argued Mr. Sekhar.

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