Mental health is emerging as a public health challenge, said Keshav Desiraju, secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) while delivering a keynote address at the national conference on ‘Public Health Challenges for the Current Millennium’ organised at Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC) in Pune on Friday.
Desiraju spoke on the challenges for the health of the nation at the first day of the three-day conference highlighting the inequities in health among different states by giving examples of the maternal mortality ratio in the country. He said that while states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra had achieved a ratio around hundred while the same was about 250 for states like UP, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
Amongst the emerging concerns, he placed mental health high on his priority stating that three per cent of the population is estimated to have severe mental illnesses affecting their ability to exist productively within the communities. The challenge, he elaborated, is also in finding appropriate health staff including nurses and paramedical personnel to man the infrastructure.
Desiraju lamented that 70 per cent of the primary health consultations happens at the tertiary care centre whereas the primary level care should be available through the primary and community health centres. Touching upon the medical education aspect, he said more than half of the medical colleges in the country are private, and graduates from these sectors rarely serve in the community which requires primary healthcare. He voiced his concern about the inefficiencies of the regulatory machinery of the various councils involved in medical education and conceded that the nation had yet not been able to harness the huge manpower potential of the AYUSH system.
The sessions, over the next two days, would examine other themes and issues related to vector-borne diseases, disaster preparedness and health, learning from experience of the recent tragedies and dealing with important nutritional problems in the country.