An interview with Prof. Rama Baru, Chairperson,
Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, School of Social Sciences
Bhoomika: Considering the fact that not many people are not aware about the discipline called Social Medicine, I think, the most apt opening question for this interview would be 'what is social medicine'?
Prof. Baru: The Centre was set up outside the confines of a medical college so that it could enrich itself through wider interaction with the various disciplines of natural and social sciences. Over the past 30 years, the Centre has acquired the rich experience of evolving problem-oriented interdisciplinary academic programmes in addition to building an active research base. At the same time, efforts have also been made at constructing institutional links with policy making.
Under the overall objective of creating academic programmes for making health services meaningful to the people of the country, the CSMCH set out its objective to understand the health problems and health needs of Indian people with a view to find workable solutions for them in the existing social structure and to examine the social structure itself to delineate the structural constraints which limit the scope of health interventions. The task obviously requires an inter-disciplinary approach involving disciplines such as sociology, anthropology, psychology, economics, history, politics, demography, statistics and public administration, apart from the disciplines that are traditionally included in public health. It was for this reason that the Centre was located in the School of Social Sciences.
Bhoomika: How is this Centre equipped for such study?
Prof. Baru: This is a unique centre because it is located in the School of Social Sciences and not attached to a medical college as is the case with Preventive and Social Medicine departments. The mandate of the Centre was to focus on the health needs and problems of the poor and marginalized. Over the years the effort has been to build an interdisciplinary approach to studying health problems with a faculty that comprises of doctors and social scientists. There are two programmes that are offered by the Centre. The Masters in Public Health(MPH/PhD) that is open to doctors and nurses and Masters in Philosophy (MPhil/PhD) for social scientists.
Bhoomika: Does this Centre advise the government on policies related to health services in some way?
Prof. Baru: Over the years the faculty has been engaged with government programmes and policy making process. Several faculty members have played an advisory role on the task force groups of the National Rural Health Mission. To give you an idea of our faculty involvement, members of the faculty have been involved with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare; Indian Council for Medical Research; Population Commission; National Institute of Medical Statistics; National Institute for Disaster Management; National Health System Research Centre; Ministry of Human Resource Development and also state governments.
Bhoomika: What are the general areas of research in this Centre?
Prof. Baru: Our students and faculty have been engaging with different fields of research. The broad themes that are being researched include health service systems research; social epidemiology; nutrition and health with a special focus on the vulnerable; population policies; women's health; environment and health including worker's health; democratisation and decentralisation as alternative strategies for the delivery of health care; urban health; health legislation; Bio-ethics; indigenous systems and primary health care; International trade, legislation and health.