Stand for Public Health and oppose seat cuts in JNU’s pioneering CSMCH!

JNU’s Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health had proposed to admit the following students 9 Direct PhD and 18 integrated PhD programme students in 2017-18. What they have been allowed by the JNU administrations to admit is ZERO. If the retrospective effect on supervision caps is maintained, then this figure shall continue to be in sharp decline for a few more years. National and international support from institutions across the world have poured in condemning this move. Most importantly, because this Centre’s important work speaks to govt policies on health and their implementation, several former government officials have written to JNUTA, in solidarity.  

The Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health at JNU has been an important international collaborator for my research group for almost a decade. It is a pleasure to work with such colleagues, prominent Indian scholars on the interface of social sciences and public health with a unique and enquiring voice. CSMCH has valuable expertise and a key role to play in the training of the next generation of researchers.

Susan F Murray, Professor of Health, Society and Development, King’s College London

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It is learnt that the intake of students to The Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, JNU is being reduced for the coming academic year. This is very unfortunate.The Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, JNU has not only made significant contributors to research and teaching in public health, but the faculty and alumnus have been actively associated with and engaged in providing the Ministry of Health critical inputs on health policy, particularly related to the health concerns of the most marginalised sections of society.  It would be a tragedy if the intake of students is reduced, more so when there appears to be a renewed commitment of the government to focus on public health and addressing the issues of inequity by focussing on the health of the poor living in underserved areas. India desperately needs scholarship and research in health and there are only  a handful of such institutions in the health sector.Therefore, a larger national view and requirements need to be kept in mind by the JNU administration while taking such a decision. Public health requires to be above partisan politics.

Ms. K Sujatha Rao, Former Union Secretary, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India.

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The Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health at JNU is a unique institution in India. Over the past years, I have had the privilege of working with colleagues at the Centre who are leading scholars in the inter-disciplinary study of public health in India. The Centre has not only published excellent work, it has also been a leading institution for the training of the next generation of social scientists. There is an urgent need today to address questions of health and illness from a social science perspective. I hope the Centre will continue to receive the support it requires and deserves.

Carlo Caduff, Associate Professor, King’s College London

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I am writing to express my my deep concern over the potential reduction in student intake to the Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health at JNU. I have had the honour of being associated with CSMCH, and to work with colleagues within the centre over the past 5 years, in a number of collaborative national and International research projects. In my opinion the centre has a crucial role to play in addressing the complex public health challenges which are emergent in India today. It has a groundbreaking interdisciplinary approach and is at the cutting edge of teaching. It succeeds in combining academic rigour and the development of enquiring minds with skills in effective community engagement.

Fiona Marshall, Professor of Environment & Development, University of Sussex

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I am writing in support of the Centre of Social Medicine ad Community Health at Jawaharlal Nehru University. I have had the special privilege of being able to work with members of the Centre on research projects in India. Our most recent research collaboration has been the Ecosystem Services and Poverty Alleviation project entitled ‘Risks and Responses to Urban Futures’ (http://steps-centre.org/project/urban-futures/) explored community members’ understandings of ecosystems, pollution and health risk in peri-urban Ghaziabad. This project is funded by the UK Research Councils, specifically the Economic and Social Science Research Council, see http://www.esrc.ac.uk/research/major-investments/ESPA.aspx.

IDS is a partner in a RRUF project which is led by the University of Sussex. Our collaboration with the Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health is one which we have come to value. Our work has involved field research which was managed and overseen by the Centre, the sharing of intellectual ideas and, most recently, developing jointly-authored publications. During this time I have worked intensively with staff members and students from the Centre. I have come to appreciate the commitment of Centre members, have been impressed by their commitment to research which addresses poverty alleviation by doing research in uncomfortable and challenging circumstances.

It is not easy to develop successful research partnerships and the best ones are built on past project collaborations which have taken the time and effort to build trust, not just with individual academics but also with research centres and departments. I anticipate that IDS will work more with the Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health in the future.

Linda Waldman, Director of Teaching and Learning, Institute of Development Studies, Sussex

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JNU’s Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health is absolutely central to efforts to understand and contribute to improving the public health situation in India. Its research is world-class, used by many students and colleagues here in Edinburgh, for teaching and research in medical anthropology, sociology, global public health and public health sciences. The Centre provides an inter-disciplinary approach to public health, an approach that is tremendously important in the contemporary world. It is

Roger Jeffrey, Professor of Sociology of South Asia, Associate Director, Edinburgh India Institute

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I am writing to offer my strongest support and praise for JNU’s Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health. Not only in India but globally, the Centre is one of the premier public health scholarly institutions, known for its ground-breaking interdisciplinary approach and the superb quality of the academic and policy research produced by its faculty and students. I had the honor of being a visiting scholar at the Centre in 2010, and returned there in 2015 as a Fulbright-Nehru Distinguished Chair. Faculty at the Centre have helped me immensely in my own research on international population issues.

I hope and trust the Centre will continue to receive the support it deserves so that it can thrive in the years ahead.

Betsy Hartmann, Professor Emerita of Development Studies, Hampshire College, Amherst 

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The Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health has, since its inception, produced world-class research and trained countless top-flight researchers. Its faculty and students have shaped the fields of public health and health policy– within India, and beyond. The Centre is an essential port of call for international scholars to present work and receive critical feedback.

I have had the pleasure of interacting with members of the Centre since 1997, when Professor Mohan Rao provided guidance for my University of Chicago PhD on the history of birth control in India. Since then, I have been a visiting professor at CSMCH (in 2010), and have jointly held a British Academy International Partnership Award with Professor Mohan Rao (2010-2013). The latter resulted in a jointly-edited book published by Oxford University Press (2016) and containing original scholarship from faculty and researchers based at CSMCH and the University of Warwick.

It is essential for the international scholarly fields of social medicine and community health that the Centre continue with robust support from JNU.

Sarah Hodges, History Department, University of Warwick

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I have learnt that there is a possibility of the downsizing of the Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health at JNU, and of steps bring taken to reduce student intake. As someone who has worked for many years in the health policy space I would urge that no such steps be taken. India urgently needs increased capacity in training and research in community health, and in public health in general. We simply do not have enough qualified manpower at any level in the public health structure and while this is an issue for States governments and government medical colleges to address, academic faculties like the Centre at JNU contribute greatly to strengthening the quality of public health research and in making the case for greater public investment in primary health care. This is an important aspect of the newly launched National Health Policy and we look to institutions of repute such as JNU to leading the public health movement in the country.

Keshav Desiraju,
(formerly Secretary, Health and Family Welfare, GOI)

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JNU was the pioneer in introducing social science orientation to public health way back in seventies by stalwart like Dr. Banerjee.  My interest to work on social science and health was influenced by the JNU approach to health in mid-seventies.  JNU has come a long way in the last 40 plus years in this field and has motivated institutions like TISS to work in this area from eighties.  I always felt that while JNU has a high quality academic caliber in the Centre for public health research and teaching, its intake was just a drop in the ocean as compared to the need in this field.  As I was  looking forward to increase in intake, it was a shock for me to know that the intake will be brought down to zero.  I appeal to the authorities of JNU to sustain the current level of intake if not increase in intake for the upcoming academic year.

Prof. C.A.K. Yesudian, Former Dean, School of Health Systems Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences

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I have been working quite closely with the centre for Social Medicine and Community Health (CSMCH) for the past several years.  I was shocked to learn that CSMCH will not be allowed to take PhD students for the academic year 2017-18 and probably for the next two academic years as well.

CSMCH has been the premier centre involved in training the young researchers – both social scientists and medical doctors for about three decades.   While inter-disciplinarity as an idea is much talked about, it is CSMCH that consistently demonstrated in India how to go about it and the deeper insights that it can contribute.  The community of researchers that CSMCH has created over a period of time has significant impact in terms of health policy and research in India.  The faculty at CSMCH drawn from both medical sciences and social sciences, have contributed a great deal to public health research which is quite evident from their publications in both national and international journals and books.  In a nutshell, health research and policy cannot be visualized without the role of CSMCH.

Given its contribution to the larger health debates, policies and research in India, JNU administration should facilitate the research tradition of CSMCH rather than create hurdles.  As a fellow academic, I sincerely urge the JNUTA to take the case of CSMCH and other centres matter to the administration explaining the serious consequences for both research and community of researchers in future.

N Purendra Prasad,  Professor of Sociology, University of Hyderabad

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I, being a public health practitioner and presently holding the charge of NVBDCP, GoI have seen immense contribution of CPHRT in the field of Elimination of Lymphatic Filariasis, prevention and control of Japanese Encephalitis (JE)/ Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) and other vector borne diseases and see this move damaging to public health. There are very few institutions working on social sciences in public health which is the need of the hour in the present circumstances when we are talking of implementation of National Health Policy 2017 for universal access to health.

Dr A.C.Dhariwal, Director, National Vector Borne Disease Control Program, Directorate General of Health Services, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Govt. of India

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