ICMR-NIOH, PHFI to develop occupational health programme

Consultative meeting for development of curriculum framework for occupational health programme held in Ahmedabad

The National Institute of Occupational Health, an ICMR institute and the Training Division of the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) is developing a unique programme designed for the Care and Compliance of Unorganised Sector Workers Perspective for Primary Health Care Professionals (OHP-CAPH). A consultative meeting for the development of the curriculum framework for the occupational health programme was held in Ahmedabad.

Leading experts in various aspects of occupational health Dr R Manivelan, Nodal officer, NHM, Tamil Nadu, Dr K U Mistry, Former Chairman, GPCB, Dr T K Joshi, Advisor to Minister of Science and Technology, Govt of India, Dr Tsuyoshi Kawakami, Senior OSH Specialist, International Labour Organisation DWT New Delhi, Dr Suneela Garg, Director Professor and Head, Department of Community Medicine, Maulana Azad Medical College, Dr Kamalesh Sarkar, Director, NIOH, Dr Dileep Mavalankar, Director, Indian Institute of Public Health Gandhinagar, PHFI, and Dr Sandeep Bhalla, Director, Training, PHFI were present. Representative from the International Labour Organisation provided technical expertise to the programme. Representative from WHO, Dr Ivan D Ivanov, Team leader, Global workplace Health, Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health, WHO Headquarters, Geneva also provided his technical inputs for this consultative meeting.

Dr Kamalesh Sarkar, Director, ICMR-NIOH, on the need for the programme said, ”Occupational health is defined as the highest degree of physical, mental and social well-being of workers in all occupations. It is the branch of healthcare which deals with all aspects of health and safety at the workplace. It lays strong emphasis on the prevention of hazards at a primary level. India is increasingly becoming a preferred location for setting up of industrial companies. There is a need to design a programme to address the occupational healthcare needs of the unorganised sector in the Indian context and provide training and build a strong cohort of primary care physicians and allied health professionals with core competencies in providing occupational healthcare. The ICMR-NIOH has collaborated with PHFI to develop this programme. International Labour Organisation is the technical partner for this workshop. This will be developed by end of the year.”

Dr Sandeep Bhalla, Director, Training, PHFI said, “Awareness of occupational diseases is found to be low across India and its reporting is not very consistent. Factors influencing this issue include lack of reliable diagnosis, follow-ups and apparent shortage of occupational health specialists in the country.”

He added, “The overall objective of the workshop is to develop/update a standard teaching protocol and module for evidence based learning on occupational healthcare. This will enable building a network of primary care physicians and allied health professionals in the field of occupational healthcare. This workshop will update primary care physicians and allied health professional with the latest advancements in the field of occupational healthcare and provide an opportunity to discuss the difficulties, problems and obstacles faced by occupational healthcare professionals even after completion of the workshop and provide technical assistance/hand holding to the occupational healthcare professionals for one year.”

With increasing opportunities for organisations to invest and operate in India, it also brings forth challenges in mitigating occupational and workplace health risks. With a population exceeding 1.2 billion, India has a strong workforce of over 465 million. However, only 20 per cent of them are covered under the existing health and safety legal framework. Occupational health and safety is no longer limited to individuals working in physically demanding jobs or exposed to industrial/regulated environments. It now influences a larger section of the Indian workforce, especially in the service sector where companies may not recognise significant occupational risks, but have to manage the consequences of emerging risks, such as NCDs and other HR challenges impacting profitability and sustainability.

Following this consultative meeting, the major challenges, issues and obstacles related to the service delivery related to the occupational health and also the ways to overcome it. The recommendations emerging from this consultative meeting will be provided to both Ministry of Health as well as Ministry of Labour to improve the occupational health scenario of the country particularly for the unorganised sector which is at present non-existent in India.

Due to the variety of industries present in India, there are varying trends in occupational related health conditions from one industry to another. A few common occupational health related conditions encountered in heavy industries, and in those categorised as having hazardous operations, include noise-induced hearing loss, vibration-related disorders and poisoning. The categories of major occupational diseases in India are: occupational injuries, occupational lung diseases, occupational infections, occupational toxicology and occupational mental disorders.

A grouping of major occupational disorders in India according to the etiological factors includes-Occupational Injuries like: ergonomics related, chemical occupational factors (like dust, gases, acid, alkali, metals etc.), physical occupational factors (like noise, heat, radiation etc.), biological occupational factors, behavioural occupational factors, social occupational factors.

ICMR-NIOHInternational Labour OrganisationPHFIunorganised primary healthcareWHO
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