THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The State Planning Board has proposed the enactment of a comprehensive legislation - The Kerala State Public Health Act - and establishment of a Public Health Cadre for improving the quality of health services in the state.
The two existing Public Health Acts - The Madras Public Health Act 1939 and the TC Public Health Act 1955 - need to be unified for formulating the comprehensive state Act, according to a report of the Planning Board expert committee on health.
The report has come out at a time when the government’s move to establish a Public Health Protection Agency has evoked criticism from the medical fraternity.
The government is for setting up an agency rather than establishing a Public Health Cadre and Public Health Department, which has been widely criticised.
The experts have stated that the agency would not be a substitute for Public Health Cadre and Public Health Department, which have been envisaged in the National Health Policy and already adopted by several states.
The expert committee was formed to deliberate on the various challenges faced by the state’s health system and the strategies to be adopted during the 12th Five Year Plan.
The report of the expert committee has been circulated among ministers, MLAs and MPs. It has recommended that steps should be taken to bring in the unified Act in the Assembly at the earliest.
In the report, head of Social Services Division of the Planning Board, Shaila Unnithan, noted that the committee had a lot of deliberations before a comprehensive report was brought out.
“The report could be implemented as it dwells on all aspects of health care and has come out with many suggestions that could improve the health care system in the state,’’ she said.
It has also been pointed out that the formulation of the Act has been referred to the Working Group Report of the Planning Board on Medical and Public Health Five Year Plan.
With respect to the Public Health Cadre, the report said that it should be established with the following objectives; focus and co-ordinate all activities and factors related to health promotion and disease prevention - both ‘medical’ and ‘non-biomedical’; epidemic surveillance; to be responsible for Centrally- sponsored programmes such as MCH, RCH, ICDS, UIP as well as disease prevention/eradication/mitigation schemes; to co-ordinate health related activities with departments/agencies dealing with/responsible for sanitation, drinking water, waste management under the aegis of the LSGs; be responsible for health education of the public, starting at the level of schools and even beyond.
The report also mentions that the cadre should be integrated with members drawn from all the disciplines of the ‘healing’ sciences (Ayurveda, Homeopathy, Modern Medicine) as well as those from nursing and dentistry.
Apart from this, the report also moots adoption of prevailing standards like Indian Public Health Standards (IPHS) which can be modified according to the needs of the state for improving the quality of the health sector.