Port Blair, Nov. 18: “There is a need for our researchers to go beyond their degree to contribute for medical research on public health”, said Shri S.K. Rao, Joint Secretary, Deptt. of Health Research, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare today while addressing researchers and media at ICMR, Dollygunj.

While degree like PhDs can be called as personal achievements, where the researcher does some research keeping in mind his degree, there is a need to expand the thinking to contribute towards public health, said the visiting Joint Secretary.

Shri Rao explained that the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has expanded itself and has four different departments under it. They are the Department of Health & Family Welfare, Department of AYUSH, Department of AIDS Control and the Department of Health Research. The ICMR he said used to be a separate entity but now it has been brought under Department of Health Research, thereby elevating its status.  The department of health research was constituted in 2007 with a purpose of coordinating with the sister research organisations. With ICMR being included under this department, it is entrusted to control the entire research done in the field of medicines and public health.

Giving examples of diseases/ viruses, Rao said that there was a time when India never had a vaccine for Swine Flu. But when the virus spread, it was a blessing in disguise as we ourselves had developed vaccines to control it with the help of ICMR. Therefore we expect more from ICMR when it comes to public health, he said.

Expressing concern over diabetes, the Joint Director said that India will be known as the diabetic capital of the world by 2020. It is alarming, he said. Keeping this in mind, the Govt. of India, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare had launched a national programme on diabetes. Under this programme each and every district of the country will be identified and a universal level screening has been initiated. With the help of our research organisations, we are in an advance stage of developing the regent to be used in the diabetic testing kit. This will reduce the cost of the kit considerably, making it affordable to the common man, Shri Rao explained.

He also said that the Planning Commission had granted Rs. 1900 Crores to the Department of Health Research during the 11th plan. But looking at the perspective of our country, it has been decided to enhance the grant to 9 times more than the 11th Plan.

“We have also plans to establish research unit in Medical Colleges thereby linking all researches. Apart from this we have big agendas for the coming years and major thrust will be given on Human Resource development”, Rao said.

Explaining about the delay in opening a medical college in the islands, the Joint Secretary explained that Human Resource is the main constraint. Though the govt. has relaxed many rules for setting up of medical colleges in the country but it is still difficult to sustain due to shortage in faculty even though age relaxation has been announced.

The Director RMRC (ICMR), A&N Islands, Dr. P. Vijayachari who was also present on the occasion cleared several doubts raised on the occasion regarding the health status of tribes in A&N Islands. He explained that ICMR has come out with a Community Biodiversity Register wherein it has covered the entire population of Nicobar District. The traditional herbs and drugs used by the community have been recorded, which will prevent private entrepreneurs from patenting it for their benefit.

Regarding the Jarawa tribes, Dr. Vijayachari said, ICMR is not venturing into the Jarawa territory for want of permission. He said, “It is not ethical to collect any kind of samples from the tribe without their consent.  This is also done as per the guidelines of Govt. of India”.

Later Dr. Vijayachari exhibited the Community Biodiversity Register of the Nicobars which has three volumes. Two volumes have been complied and released while the third volume will be released shortly.