University Summit in Kyushu 2007
Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan, 27-28 October
Session 3 : The University's Role in Health Sciences

Prof. Dr. M. S. ANANTH
Director, Indian Institute of Technology Madras


Health Research and Public Health Challenges: Some Observations


The worldsf resources to overcome public health challenges are very poorly distributed. This poor distribution, often described as the 10-/90 gap, is particularly serious since developing countries that have access to a paltry 10% of the resources suffer from the double burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases, which account for 90% of the global health problems. In the case of India, it is clear that one of the leading causes of DALY (Disability Adjusted Life Years) is diarrhoea and its spread seems independent of the source of drinking water and is particularly prevalent among children below 3 years. It is interesting that this spread is independent of the sex of the child and the nature of the residence, urban or rural.

The funding for R&D in health is dominated by high income countries. The public expenditure on health in India is very low being about 1% of the GDP and even lower on R&D below 0.05%. Out of the total expenditure on providing health services Government agencies account for about 20%, while the private sector accounts for almost 80%. The Worldfs Price Index on drugs and medicines has, in the meanwhile, gone up faster than the price of all the commodities, thus aggravating the situation.

Fundamental policy objectives in the health sector should be to improve access to health care, its quality and to decrease its cost. Apart from scarcity of fundamental resources the greater concern is the scarcity of human resources. In country like India, it is important therefore to supplement health care through indigenous medical practitioners. While there is lack of uniformity in the qualifications of such practitioners, it is a resource that developing countries like India cannot afford to ignore. The Government has an important role to play in promoting Indigenous Medical systems. As of now the policy of the states has not been encouraging but the Central Government has taken some encouraging steps under its National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). So far, as institutes are concerned they should advocate aggressively rural health R&D, earmark a portion of their budget for promoting health research and embark on research areas that are expected to have a significant impact on public health problems. For instance potential areas that are likely to have a significant impact are the development of chemical strategies to control insects, needle-free vaccine delivery systems and technologies to assess population health.