WHO India honours public health champions

At a national consultation held on 1 April 2015 at New Delhi jointly with the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW), Government of India (GoI) to commemorate the World Health Day 2015 (7 April), the WHO Country Office for India gave out awards for Public Health Champions.

The award winners are : SEWA Rural; Community Health Department, Christian Medical College, Vellore; Biocon Foundation and Dr Vinod K. Paul, AIIMS, New Delhi for sustained contribution to public health. In the category of innovation, the awardees were Narayana Health and Ekjut.

Highlighting the importance of the public health champions awards, Dr Nata Menabde, WHO Representative to India said, "Public health is a challenging field and these awards are our way of saying thank you to the talented individuals and organizations that have dedicated themselves to this field. These awards are an attempt to recognize and honour the best in this field and also to encourage others to emulate them."

A brief on the public health champions:

Dr Vinod Paul is a Professor and Head of the Department of Pediatrics at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi. His public health work comprises of advocacy, research, education and policy guidance. Dr Paul has also contributed to a number of policy changes in India, especially those dealing with the health of newborns.

The Community Health and Development Department of the Christian Medical College, Vellore is providing primary care to the rural, urban and tribal communities in its vicinity. A training ground for medical, nursing and paramedical students, the department has set an example in community based service, public health teaching and research for several medical and public health institutions in India and south Asia.

SEWA Rural endeavors to reach out and assist the poorest of the poor through rational medical care of high quality covering multiple specialties to over 2500 villages. It has also been using mobile phone technology innovatively to empower community health workers and other government health staff for improving surveillance and delivery of proven maternal, newborn and child health interventions.

Biocon Foundation focusses its healthcare programs on early detection and prevention of noncommunicable diseases through a network of community health workers and nine Biocon Foundation primary health centres across Karnataka. It is also working on sustainable and cost-effective community based models for cervical and oral cancer screening and detection by community health workers who are trained to conduct screening using simple mobile technology.

Narayana Health is one of India's largest and globally one of the most economical healthcare providers. Their e-Health Centres provide technology enabled innovative primary healthcare services to people living in resource-deprived locations of India. The e-Health Centre solution enables the collection, analysis and tracking of individual and community-wide data on disease patterns and risk factors to derive regional health and disease burden profiles with high potential to influence the quality of life of many people in India.

Ekjut, a community- based NGO, currently working in Jharkhand and Odisha, has been empowering rural communities by facilitating participatory learning and action for reducing newborn mortality. Their interventions have resulted in considerable decrease in newborn and maternal deaths, especially in areas, which lack access to health services and with difficult geographical terrain. These innovations have led to their expansion to other neighbouring Indian states.

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