A new Centre for Environmental Health, under the aegis of Tata Sons and Tata Consultancy Services, India has been launched at the India Habitat Centre in New Delhi. The new Centre set up at New Delhi aims to undertake policy based research development and capacity building on environment and health. The Centre also strives to train professionals in the sector.
The press release states that the Centre aims to work in, with the understanding that developing this platform for research and policy translation will require significant capacity building in many areas including environmental epidemiology, exposure science, policy analysis and statistics, among other disciplines.
The Centre is a joint initiative of the Public Health Foundation of India and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai. Environmental health is an area of growing interest for Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), with their work in the space expanding over the past few years to address issues related to air pollution, climate change, pesticide use, and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), while the TISS has been in the forefront of studying the social, economic and environmental determinants of health.
Panel Discussion: Right to left, Dr. L S Rathor, Director General, IMD; Ms. Lesley Onyon, Regional Director, WHO; Prof. D. Prabhakaran, Vice President, PHFI; Dr. Suresh Jain, Prof. and Head, TERI, Melina S Magsumbol, SRF, PHFI.
In addition to the portfolio of research in areas such as air pollution, WASH, chemical exposures and climate change, the Centre will offer a platform for young researchers to carry out work in environmental health, through a series of capacity building initiatives such as fellowships, pilot grants and exchange programmes. The Centre will also establish a policy engagement platform, with regular meetings with government, civil society, academia and the private sector, to develop pathways to implementation.
Speaking at the inaugural event, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Shri Jagat Prakash Nadda said, ‘Mass scale sensitization is required regarding environmental impact on health in India.
The evidence-based research from institutions like the new Centre will be valuable.’ Shri Jairam Ramesh, Member of Parliament, talked about the need to address public health seriously. He said, ‘One of the new ways to look at environmental health is to see from public health perspective so as to get maximum political and public support.’ PHFI’s President Professor K. Srinath Reddy pointed out the relation between environment and health. He said, ‘The threats of extreme weather events and its impact on agriculture, health, etc clearly show that environment is related to human health.’ Elaborating on the objectives of the new Centre, Professor S. Parasuraman, Director, TISS Mumbai said , ‘The idea of the Centre is to address an issue that has been long due. The issue of environmental hazards and its impact on health will be tackled through policy-related research on health and environment, capacity building and training professionals.’ In the interactive session audience raised the question of learning from past mistakes like the Bhopal Gas Tragedy. The panel nods to audience’s apprehension.
India is prone to various environmental hazards. The need of the hour is to understand the relation between such hazards and health. The new Centre promises to fill in this gap through policy based research and capacity building.