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ART centres in Uttarakhand: Some reflections from the field: By Supriya Chand

ART centres in Uttarakhand: Some reflections from the field: By Supriya Chand


One of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) is to control the spread of HIV/AIDS. This puts a continuing concern on improving health services. Many projects are run by the government to address these concerns effectually. One such program is operation of ICTCs/STIs/ART centres in government hospitals. These centres have been successful in providing pre and post test counselling through trained counsellors to the individual/s coming for HIV screening. However, there are many challenges and barriers faced at bot  Institution (Hospitals and Health workers) and community level (community members).


Poor infrastructure and facilities

A standard approved size room is given to counsellors for their work. However, at some of the ICTCs/STIs the counsellors are facing troubles in carrying out their work in the given space. The problems range from room given at one far end of the building, electricity/store room being converted into counselling room, room given at first/higher floors, absence of proper waiting area outside the counseling room etc. This could be taken care if room is allotted after making sure it is easily accessible, comfortable as well as guards the privacy of visitor.

The counsellors at almost all the ICTCs/STIs have to bear the burden of administrative issues. These range from low salary amount, delayed salary payments, petty politics at the workplace (at some centres), absence/delayed supply of essential work material like Kits for STI counselling. These problems could result in burnout of counsellor. Hence the concerned authorities should maintain the SOP strictly so as to enable counsellors to do their work effectively. Apart from these, often the counsellors have deal with the interference and pressure from local authorities (local leader/s, group/s etc.) in their work.

In the state of Uttarakhand, in the areas at great altitude most of the ICTCs/STIs counsellors have less patient’s visits. This is mainly due to absence of specialist doctors and specialised services in the hospitals at these places. The provision of these would mean more patients visiting the centre.

Capacity building for counsellors

The minimum qualification for counsellor’s job is bachelor’s degree. Hence some counsellors are neither from psychology/sociology/social work background, nor received any training in counselling. Some of them lack even the basic skills of counselling. This could be addressed by making either the aforesaid subjects or a training/experience of counselling compulsory for applying for the post. The newly appointed counsellors should be allotted centres only once they have completed induction training. In Indian society HIV/AIDS is still considered to be a taboo issue. Though the counselors are trained, some of them have their own prejudice. Often they are not sensitive and have indifferent attitude towards the sero-positive individuals. This could lead to patients getting discouraged about coming for treatment. Hence, providing trainings to sensitize health workers is utmost importance for success.

Governance issues

The sero –positive patients could avail ART medicines from the Link ART centres. However, their number is less in Uttarakhand, so more number of such centres would be beneficial for community as this would provide access to necessary medicines to the concerned person without many troubles. Patient load is high at some centres, which results in limited counselling period so taking up significant points can make session effective. Additional workload like filling of many formats daily apart from report to be submitted to concerned authorities is another issue, which could be dealt promptly with following proper work plan.

Need for community care centres

Distance is one major problem, which restricts people from accessing the health facilities. Finance is another issue which requires attention. Most of the people are poor in terms of finance hence lack both money and time (since they could utilize that time for work) to visit the facilities until their health issue becomes dead serious. Promoting NGOs/local groups to work would help people like providing vehicle support for reaching health facility

The community care centre (CCC) for sero-positive patients is not present at local levels hence a sero-positive individual who is at Srinagar in the state has to come down to Dehradun to avail the service. Also availability of seats at such centre is another issue.

Improving awareness in the community

HIV/AIDS is still a taboo subject, so there is a hesitation among community members to seek help like visiting health facilities for fear of character judgement or being out casted from community. There is absence/lack of complete and correct information on the subject. This results in people believing in many myths and misconceptions and often not approaching health facility for timely treatment. All this could be successfully answered by sensitizing community on the subject. This could be done through awareness campaigns, street plays, informative wall paintings etc. Involvement of community head and Panchayat members would also prove to be fruitful.

Supriya Chand  was a  student of e-learning course in Public Health Management(ePHM) conducted by Institute of Public Health, Bangalore, India.

Disclaimer: IPH blogs provide a platform for ePHM students to share their reflections on different public health topics. The views expressed here are solely those of the authors and not necessarily represent the views of IPH.

Right to clean air: By Ajeet Pal Singh

Right to clean air: By Ajeet Pal Singh

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The effects of air pollution on the lungs and heart are now widely appreciated, with more incriminating evidence of its role in cardiac disease.  Air quality is represented by the annual mean concentration of fine particulate matter: PM10 and PM2.5, referring to particles smaller than 10 or 2.5 microns. The Global Burden of Disease Study identified fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in outdoor air and household air pollution from use of solid fuels as the ninth and fourth leading risk factors, respectively, for disease worldwide, and the World Health Organization attributes one in every eight deaths to air pollution. This research stems from improved understanding of the role of air pollution in initiating systemic inflammation, a response that may affect multiple organ systems.

ajeetSimilarly a study conducted in India found that average pollution levels were up to eight times higher on city roads.They reported that the exposures that one experiences on and near roads can substantially exceed what one would measure at an official monitoring site.

There is growing evidence that air pollution is an important risk factor for an increasing number of common diseases; in a recent systematic analysis study, it was found that the increase in each of the common gaseous and particulate air pollutants were significantly associated with admission to hospital for stroke or stroke related mortality, with associations strongest for strokes on the same day as exposure.

Need for political will

To curb the problem of bad air quality, a strong political will is required. It is the lack on information and knowledge about air quality due to obsolete technology and limited number of monitoring stations, which often leads to a poor decision-making. Moreover, lax standards is a major impediment. So it is important to chalk out an effective plan for thorough monitoring fulfilling the minimum requirement of monitoring for at least 104 days in a year along with that an increase in the number of monitoring sites too. This is because effective air quality planning requires accurate data. Parameters like network design of monitoring sites, maintenance, calibration of equipment and quality audits of data should be given urgent attention. Capacity for autonomous air quality planning free from industry bias is something that is needed from state regulatory authorities. Monitoring is also important to formulate policies to control it, to create awareness and sensitise people to prepare them for hard decisions. Last but not the least, decision makers should come up with plans for proactive climate change preparedness. For example, instituting policies that make bicycle commuting more accessible and convenient will help to reduce carbon emissions, improve air quality, and decrease obesity rates by facilitating physical activity.

Health system preparedness

Health systems have a major role to play in dealing with the consequences of several diseases. For this, a trained and competent workforce is central to the success of health system. Medical care providers should be trained to recognise and manage emerging health threats that may be associated with climate change. Furthermore, respiratory health should be promoted through better prevention, detection, treatment and education efforts. Besides this, allocating a unit for respiratory illness with adequate resources in terms of medicines, masks, nebulizers, ventilators and so on is something that can help to deal with the load of patients coming in times of climate change with several respiratory problems.

Increasing the number of a specialised professional i.e Pulmonologists is something that should be thought about. Moreover, training sessions should be organized for all levels of healthcare providers – from paramedics to doctors –  to deal with patients on urgent basis. Timely referrals to higher health centre with effective transportation can also another issue that needs to be looked in to.

Measures that can be undertaken

1. Diesel vehicles which are more than 10 years old should not be permitted to ply, especially in cities

2. Tightening vehicle emissions standards to world-class levels and extensive adoption of cleaner fuels in passenger vehicles (CNG, low-sulfur diesel).

3. Cleaning up the high emitting trucks that ply at night, reducing urban burning of wood and wastes, reducing emissions from  diesel backup generators, and cleaning up rural industries such as brick kilns.

4.  Switch to polluting methods, whenever possible. For example, solar electricity is now price competitive with imported coal power in the Indian market.

Scope for public health involvement

Public health practitioners have a responsibility to effectively engage with policy makers about the need for proactive climate change preparedness .By providing a critical health perspective, public health professionals can communicate the significant health impact that are likely to occur if adequate preparedness measures are not adopted. Public health professionals can educate policymakers about the health benefits that will result from sound climate preparedness planning. Public health department and agencies should take help of communication tools tailored to community,and population which would have greater impact on community members. Few are as follows –

1. Use variety of media outreach strategies that would be effective for different age groups (like radio,local news,social media sites,etc.)

2. Have brochures and media outreach in multiple languages

3. Door to door outreach may be more effective for some communities

4. Use non-traditional outlets of education and outreach(like meals on wheels,celebrities, sporting events etc.)

Ajeet Pal Singh  was a  student of e-learning course in Public Health Management(ePHM) conducted by Institute of Public Health, Bangalore, India.

Disclaimer: IPH blogs provide a platform for ePHM students to share their reflections on different public health topics. The views expressed here are solely those of the authors and not necessarily represent the views of IPH.

How secure is India’s National Food Security Act? : by Manoj Kumar

How secure is India’s National Food Security Act? : by Manoj Kumar

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Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 10.01.28 amRecently food security provisions in India has improved and not surprisingly the country is operating one of the largest food safety nets in the World. However regarding figures related to malnutrition particularly chronic malnutrition, the country is at very poor level. There are many challenges in implementation of food security schemes which hinders achieving desired outcomes of reducing malnutrition and the benefits reaching the actual poor.

Link to Manoj’s blog in Global Food Security….Click here

e-learning course on Public Health Management 2015

e-learning course on Public Health Management 2015


e-learning course on Public Health Management 2015

After successfully managing three consecutive batches for the online course in Public Health Management (e-PHM), we kick started the fourth batch on 19th of August 2015. This batch brings along with it 31 amazing students from diverse backgrounds working across the country and internationally as well!

For the first time, we have five participants from Universitas of Gadjah Mada, Yogyakarta who are working in the department of public health. The diverse work backgrounds of the participants include UNICEF, National Institute of Epidemiology, St.John’s Research Institute, Bangalore Baptist Hospital, Department of Environmental Science and various NGOePHM2015s like JANANI and SAATHI.

We also have participants who are pursuing their PG in the field of community medicine and hospital & healthcare management. The course consists of eight modules and each module consists of four units. Each unit will have one to two classrooms that is a PowerPoint presentation with audio recording and corresponding exercises. Each module ends with a final module test based on the content covered. The students are expected to complete these units and based on their completion we are presenting their progress. Based on the feedback provided, this new batch has new features to make the learning experience more interesting and fun. Keeping in mind the work backgrounds of our participants who have to travel constantly and have limited internet access, we have introduced a new feature called “Learn on the go”. This feature allows them to download MP3 versions of our classrooms and listen to them on the go! Out of 31 students, 30 have logged in and viewed our course. The number of students who have managed to complete Module – 1 are 19, which is about 61% of the total students.

We are currently in the process of identifying any challenges faced by the participants and address them as we move forward in the course. We look forward to providing a good learning experience to the participants!