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Indian Journal of Community Medicine

Public health foundation: Concerns and missed areas

Author(s): Sood RK, Goel S, Gupta AK

Vol. 32, No. 2 (2007-04 - 2007-06)

LETTER TO EDITOR

Year : 2007 | Volume : 32 | Issue : 2 | Page : 162

Public health foundation: Concerns and missed areas

Sood RK, Goel S, Gupta AK
Himachal Pradesh Health Services and Advisor, Centre for Health Promotion, RTDC Palampur, presently Scholar FETP National Institute of Epidemiology (ICMR) Chennai, India
Date of Submission 06-Jun-2007

Correspondence Address:
Sood R K
Himachal Pradesh Health Services and Advisor, Centre for Health Promotion, RTDC Palampur, presently Scholar FETP National Institute of Epidemiology (ICMR) Chennai
India

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
How to cite this article:
Sood RK, Goel S, Gupta AK. Public health foundation: Concerns and missed areas. Indian J Community Med 2007;32:162
How to cite this URL:
Sood RK, Goel S, Gupta AK. Public health foundation: Concerns and missed areas. Indian J Community Med [serial online] 2007 [cited 2007 Nov 30];32:162. Available from: http://www.ijcm.org.in/text.asp?2007/32/2/162/35674

It is a matter of real concern that you have highlighted. We have no independent monitoring agency to act as a watchdog in public health. The Public Health foundation of India (PHFI) initiative was initially backed by several US universities specializing in public health and garnered funds from a number of corporate and international funding agencies. Some issues which have been highlighted are: whether the interests promoting the foundation would evolve solutions inimical to the public-health needs of India; whether the external agencies have hidden agendas; whether the motives of the agencies and corporate partners of the initiative suspect, given their past history of distorting genuine needs to suit ulterior purposes.

It is really strange that on the one hand the government makes tall claims regarding its commitment to raise public spending on health from 0.9% of India's gross domestic product (GDP) to 2-3% of GDP, but fights shy of funding the think tank and monitoring centers. Perhaps the role of the PHFI was perceived in the limited context of drafting guidelines. The PHFI should have teeth, high priority as a policy steering body, judicial powers, and a wider mandate as an independent watchdog in public health. For effectively playing this role, the PHFI need full-time staff with orientation in community mobilization and community empowerment. The role of this body should be to create space for alternatives in health of the people, by the people and for the people themselves.

Community participation is not genuine or factual in present-day programmes. Believing that health professionals know what is best, the health system has not created space for villagers' inputs. What has been accepted as community participation is often no more than the gram pradhan's countersignature (who shows no interest other than providing his required signature) on plans prepared by the health worker. We need capacity building by learning and sensitization. The present setup relates to disease only; health promotion should be targeted to improve the determinants of health in the general population. The PHFI can also encourage talent and innovation by inviting proposals, from within and outside the system, for studies to find solutions that are people centered.

Many studies have documented over-reporting of performance by health workers/ service providers. An independent public health agency should cross-check at least 10% of the reports and conduct periodic verifications to ensure accountability. The participation of local people and the panchayat in this process can empower them and lead to improvements in public health.

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