Mumbai: With the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) expecting its two public health schools to be up and running by the middle of 2008, India can look forward to a partial solution to a problem that prevents it from improving the quality and reach of public health-care. The country has around 700,000 doctors and 800,000 nurses, but it has few public health experts who can draft and implement large-scale health-care strategies.
The foundation, a public-private initiative in whose conceptualization consulting firm McKinsey & Co. played a part, was created last year. PHFI is now ready to set up two schools of public health at Hyderabad and in the national capital region (NCR) of Delhi, according to K. Srinath Reddy, president of the foundation. Each of the schools, he added, would require an investment of Rs120-140 crore.
PHFI currently has a corpus of Rs220 crore, with donations from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Deshpande Foundation, Rohini Nilekani’s Akshara Foundation, venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, a few other companies and the ministry of health and family welfare.
“These schools will have an India focus, but draw on the expertise of world-class public health institutions such as the Harvard School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health,” said Harpal Singh, member of the governing board of PHFI and chairman of Fortis Healthcare Ltd.
In an earlier report on the Indian health-care sector, McKinsey had said that the country’s existing health-care institutions produce only about 375 public health professionals a year. In contrast, two schools, Johns Hopkins and Harvard Medical School, produce nearly 200 public-health specialists each annually.
The Andhra Pradesh government has already allocated 43 acres of land for the school and provided Rs30 crore for the initiative, with private firms from the state contributing another Rs30 crore.
The foundation will invest Rs60 crore for the Andhra Pradesh school. The investment plan includes a Rs40 crore fund to run the school till it becomes self-sustaining.
Land has also been allocated for the school in NCR, but the proposal has to be cleared by the Delhi government, said Reddy.
While Andhra Pradesh and New Delhi will be the first states to have such schools, other states have evinced interest in setting them up with the help of PHFI, added Reddy. “State governments of Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal have approached us to set up schools in these states.”
India’s population faces health risks associated with three major lifestyle diseases —heart disease, stroke and diabetes—which could erode the country’s national income by up to $200 billion (Rs8.2 trillion) by 2015, according to a recent study by audit firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.
According to Reddy, in 2000, India lost 9.2 million potentially productive years due to premature cardiovascular disease. By 2030, the country will lose 18 million productive years, he added. “The country cannot afford such large-scale haemorrhaging of its productive manpower,” he added.
PHFI has tied up with the US-based Association of School of Public Health, a consortium of European public health schools and public health schools in Australia. In addition, it has also entered into partnerships with schools in countries such as Mexico, Brazil, China and Bangladesh.
“The schools will have a curriculum developed by experts in India, relevant to India, but will also draw on the expertise of the best schools in this sphere across the world,” said Reddy.
The schools will offer two-year post-graduate programmes and one-year diplomas in public health.