A new School of Public Health has been established at Kattankulathur, off Chennai, capital of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It will be functioning as part of the SRM Medical College Hospital and Research Center.
P. Sathyanarayanan, Vice Chancellor, SRM University, said the School of Public Health had been set up in collaboration with the two prestigious universities, one from the US and the other from the UK.
It would commence from the academic year 2007-08 onwards and would offer Master's degree in Public Health with a focus on research. The university plans to take about 25 students in the first batch and even students from non-medical backgrounds could join the course, Mr. Sathyanarayanan said.
Speaking on the occasion, Premila Webster, Director of Education and Training, Oxford University, UK, said that if India was to succeed in becoming a healthier nation, public health professionals had to be properly trained. She pointed out that neighboring Sri Lanka was far ahead of India in the public health sector.
She said that the infant mortality rate and life expectancy in Sri Lanka were 19.5 (infant deaths per 1,000 births) and 74.8 years respectively whereas India's infant mortality rate was 34.6 and life expectancy 68.6.
Dr. Premila said Sri Lanka was a healthier nation owing to free education and health services, food subsidies and welfare programs and multi-disciplinary approaches to public health.
Richard A. Cash of the Department of Population and International Health, Harvard University, US, who also spoke on the occasion, said public health was crucial to India's growth.
He recalled that when plague hit India in 1994, the country had to spend 1.4 billion US dollars, which was a colossal waste of resources. Pointing out that 1.5 billion people lived in South Asia, there were just four centers devoted to training people in public health.
In the US, which had only one-fifth of this population, there were 30 such schools and training there could cost an average of 40,000 US dollars every year. The cost of training students in public health in South Asia, particularly in India, could be brought down significantly, Dr. Cash felt.
He also wanted administrators and educators to ensure quality training was imparted to students. Stringent monitoring of teachers was required for the purpose, he noted.