Minister calls for campaign to protect public health

Health Minister P.K. Sreemathy has called for a major campaign to protect and strengthen public health, on the lines of the total literacy campaign that had taken Kerala by storm in the late Eighties.

Coordinated efforts by academics, health planners, public health activists, and community participation were crucial to reviving the floundering public health scenario in the State. More than the curative side, the State's priority should be preventive medicine and scientific research, she said, while inaugurating a symposium on ‘Health policy and planning,' organised by the Kerala University of Health and Allied Sciences (KUHAS), here on Thursday.

The high burden of morbidity owing to mental illnesses should be another priority area for the State. “We do not want to fill our mental health centres and hospitals with patients. Rather, we need a community-based approach wherein the health workers should go to the community, identify and treat people with mental illnesses,” Ms. Sreemathy said.

She suggested that the KUHAS and the State Planning Board take the lead in devising a major campaign, by involving health and allied sectors, to revive and protect the State's public health.

Planning Board vice-chairman Prabhat Patnaik presided over the inaugural session.

Delivering the keynote address, public health activist B. Ekbal said a health policy and health human resource planning were what the State should give much thought to. At present, other than the Health Department, there were several agencies with external funding working in the area of health, several vertical health programmes funded by the Centre and local-level health initiatives of the local bodies. However, none of these worked in a coordinated manner.

K. Mohandas, Vice-Chancellor, KUHAS, said the symposium was the first in a series of seminars being organised by the university in connection with the setting up of the proposed School of Health Policy and Planning under KUHAS.

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