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PUBLIC HEALTH EDUCATION
Year : 2012  |  Volume : 56  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 210-213  

Emerging need for health policy teaching in India


1 Senior Lecturer, Indian Institute of Public Health, New Delhi, India
2 Manager, Academic Programmes, New Delhi, India
3 Assistant Professor, Indian Institute of Public Health, New Delhi, India
4 Director, Indian Institute of Public Health, Public Health Foundation of India, New Delhi, India

Date of Web Publication3-Dec-2012

Correspondence Address:
Sanjay P Zodpey
Indian Institute of Public Health-Delhi, Public Health Foundation of India, Plot No 34, Sector 44, Institutional Area, Gurgaon - 122002, Haryana
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/0019-557X.104237

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   Abstract 

The core functions of public health agencies at all levels of government are identified as assessment, policy development, and assurance. However, the public health agencies in India are struggling with issues of access, inefficiency, and inequity. There has been failure in terms of health service delivery by public sector. Health Policy is being increasingly recognized as a discipline that has much to offer developing countries in addressing the problems related to policy, governance, and regulatory failure. However, the information about skill-oriented courses on health policy especially from the context of translating public health science into policy action is incomplete and limited. This paper attempts to address this knowledge gap and stimulate discussion in this direction.

Keywords: Decision making, Health Policy, Health System, Public Policy


How to cite this article:
Pandey A, Sharma K, Hasan H, Zodpey SP. Emerging need for health policy teaching in India. Indian J Public Health 2012;56:210-3

How to cite this URL:
Pandey A, Sharma K, Hasan H, Zodpey SP. Emerging need for health policy teaching in India. Indian J Public Health [serial online] 2012 [cited 2019 Nov 18];56:210-3. Available from: http://www.ijph.in/text.asp?2012/56/3/210/104237


   Introduction Top


Public health professionals work to advance laws, policies, and programs that prevent disease and protect the public's health. [1] The core public health competencies not only include skills in epidemiology, biostatistics, research methodology, health economics, and management but also skills in health policy. The Institute of Medicine (IOM, 1988) in their report "The Future of Public Health" has identified assessment, policy development, and assurance as the core functions of public health agencies at all levels of government. [2] However, in the follow up of the 1988 report, the IOM's 2003 report, "Who Will Keep the Public Healthy? Educating Public Health Professionals for the 21st Century" has noted dearth of public health professionals competent in policy development or advocacy. [3] The IOM also highlighted the need for enhanced policy training in public health institutions:
"Although the importance of policy has long been recognized, education in policy at many schools of public health is currently minimal. Education in policy analysis, policy development, and the application of policy must be addressed. Should schools wish to be significant players in the future of public health and health care, dwelling on the science of public health without paying appropriate attention to both politics and policy will not be enough". [3]

In India, public sector plays a major role in terms of planning, regulating, and shaping the delivery of health services. However, service delivery in public sector is replete with governance and regulatory failures, which has given way to a dominant private sector. There is enormous scope for enhancing efficiency and achieving equity in the health system. Health policy is being increasingly recognized as a discipline that has much to offer developing countries in addressing the problems related to formulation, implementation and interpretation of laws, regulation, and policies. There is an urgent need to meet the diversified and emerging needs of health sector in skill-oriented courses on health policy especially from the context of translating public health science into policy action. However, in India, there are only few public health institutions, which are engaged in teaching and training in public health policies. Moreover, this information is incomplete and limited. To address this knowledge gap a systematic research has been conducted to identify various institutions offering courses in health policy across India, their intake capacity, areas of specialization, and accreditation standards.


   Materials and Methods Top


In order to identify academic programs on teaching of health policy across various institutions in India, a systematic search was conducted through web-based search engines. Key words for search include 'health policy', 'health policy education', 'health policy teaching', health policy training', etc. The search included academic teaching and training programs offered by Indian institutions only. Web search was also conducted across websites of All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE), University Grants Commission (UGC), Ministry of Human Resources, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) as well as other universities and institutions. Further, detailed information about each course was collected from the designated websites of these institutions. The search was not restricted to duration of program, degree/certification, etc. However, short-term courses offered by various institutions, lasting from a few days to a few weeks were disregarded. In addition, manual search of education supplements of the leading newspapers was conducted to collect appropriate information.

Moreover, various academicians and working professionals in the field of the health policy were consulted to generate relevant information on health policy programs. The information thus collected from various sources was compiled and collated in a matrix. Finally, the institutes offering health policy programs were contacted over the phone for the purpose of consistency check. The collected information regarding the available courses, fee structure, number of seats, eligibility criteria, duration, and nature of the program, etc., was triangulated for consistency.


   Results Top


The analysis identified 11 institutions across India offering 17 different academic programs in the domains of Health Policy. We observed that the professional programs offered by these institutions fall under following major categories: Doctoral program, Masters and Post Graduate Diploma programs [Table 1].

Achutha Menon Center for Health Science Studies, Trivandrum offers PhD in health policy, whereas other institutions offer PhD in health system, public system, public policy, etc., where health policy is an integral component but not a standalone subject per se. These programs include PhD (Public Policy) offered by ICFAI School of Public Policy, Hyderabad, Fellow Program in Management (FPM) offered by Indian Institutes of Management (IIM) at Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Calcutta and Management Development Institute (MDI), Gurgaon. Prospective applicant can enroll for specialization in health policy in these programs within an overarching umbrella of public policy. These programs are intended for mid career professionals in management and of 3-5 years duration and also require submission of project work as a requisite to complete the course. Health policy is also an ingredient to curriculum of health system programs such as PhD (Health Systems) offered by Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST), Thiruvananthapuram and PhD (Health System Studies) offered by Tata Institute of Social Studies (TISS), Mumbai.
Table 1: Academic Programs in Health and Public Policy Across Various Institutions in India

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In addition, health policy is also an integral component of curriculum of Masters and Post Graduate Diploma Programs (PDP). These include MPH, M.Phil, and PDP offered by Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST), Thiruvananthapuram, Tata Institute of Social Studies, Mumbai, and Public Health Foundation of India, New Delhi, respectively. Moreover, health policy is also taught in public policy programs offered by IIM, Ahmedabad and Bangalore, MDI, Gurgaon, and Symbiosis School of Economics, Pune. In these programs, health policy is discussed in larger framework of public policy. Others include Masters programs in Public Policy by ICFAI School of Public Policy, Hyderabad and M.A. (Public Policy and Sustainable Development) by TERI University, New Delhi.


   Discussion Top


The above mentioned analysis clearly demonstrates that the institutions offering learning opportunities in health policy in India are limited, so is the teaching and training in health policy. It can also be inferred that this had led to a situation of paucity of expert in health policy at all levels of governance in health system. The situation demands not only capacity building of institutions but also of the human resources involved in delivering offering these programs. There is also an urgent need to increase numbers of academic programs in health policy across institutions as well as increasing the intake of existing courses. The potential application of distance and e-learning platforms shall also be explored to cater to a larger audience. It has been also recognized that clear understanding and appropriate application of policy analysis among health professionals, planners, and managers is becoming increasingly important to strike fine balance between health policies, economic policies, and other social policies.

The IOM's report [3] has also emphasized health policy practitioner's integration into health policy teaching to enhance the pedagogical experience of the learners. Faculties having significant experience in the health policy-making process should teach health policy. [4] It has been suggested that health policy training of professional results in greater chances of their contributing constructively to health policy decisions and a commensurately lower likelihood of adopting a reflexive confrontational positions while dealing with government. [5] Moreover, informing trainees of current policy trends may reduce some of the anxiety associated with entering practice in these politically charged times and may also stimulate a desire to stay updated with policy debates in subsequent years.

Globally, the Schools of Medicine [6] and Public Health [1] are designing and teaching health policy courses to prepare students from all public health disciplines to identify public health problems, analyze potential policy solutions, and determine what advocacy strategies to apply to encourage policy makers to implement the recommended public health policy solution. [1] It is also recognized that if public health professionals are to influence the direction of future global health care, they require a curriculum for the times-one that includes a generous dose of health policy. [5]

It is also recognized that specialized health-policy and advocacy training is needed to provide future leaders with policy-making knowledge and skills in generating public support, communication to policy-makers, and policy campaign operations that could lead to improvements in the outcomes of public health initiatives. [4] Developing professional competence in health policy would also help public health professionals to translate and communicate scientific/technical information to policy makers, planners, and administrators. This would potentially lead to rational decisions, judicious techno-economic choices, and would increase efficiency and effectiveness of the policies.

 
   References Top

1.Hearne SA. Practice-based teaching for health policy action and advocacy. Public Health Rep 2008;123 Suppl 2:65-70.   Back to cited text no. 1
[PUBMED]    
2.Institute of Medicine. The future of public health. Washington: National Academy Press; 1988.  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.Institute of Medicine. In: Gebbie KM, Rosenstock L, Hernandez LM, editors. Who will keep the public healthy? Educating public health professionals for the 21 [st] century. Washington: National Academies Press; 2003.  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.Sorenson SB, Dorfman L, Wallack L. Social change for the public'shealth: Developing a course outline for use in schools of public health. Paper presented at: American Public Health Association 134 [th] Annual Meeting and Exposition; 2006 Nov 4-8; Boston. Available from: http://apha.confex.com/apha/134am/techprogram/paper_131368.htm [Last cited on 2008 Mar 03].  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.Shortt SE, Hodgetts PG. A curriculum for the times: an experiment in teaching health policy to residents in family medicine. CMAJ 1997;157:1567-9.  Back to cited text no. 5
[PUBMED]    
6.Greysen SR, Wassermann T, Payne P, Mullan F. Teaching health policy to residents-three-year experience with a multi-specialty curriculum. J Gen Intern Med 2009;24:1322-6.  Back to cited text no. 6
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