Ahmedabad: The National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH), an ICMR institute and the training division of the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), is developing a unique program designed for the care and compliance of unorganized sector workers perspective for primary health care professionals.
A consultative meeting for the development of the curriculum framework for the occupational health program was held in Ahmedabad on Friday.
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, Government 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.
The representative from the International Labour Organisation provided technical expertise to the program. The 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.
”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,” said Dr. Kamalesh Sarkar, Director, ICMR-NIOH, on the need for the programme.
“India is increasingly becoming a preferred location for setting up of industrial companies. There is a need to design a program to address the occupational healthcare needs of the unorganized 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 program. International Labour Organization is the technical partner for this workshop. This will be developed by the end of the year,” said Dr. Kamalesh Sarkar.
“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 an apparent shortage of occupational health specialists in the country,” said Dr. Sandeep Bhalla, Director, Training, PHFI.
“The overall objective of the workshop is to develop or 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,” he said.
“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,” he added.
With the increasing opportunities for organizations 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 percent of them is covered under the existing health and safety legal framework. Occupational health and safety are 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 recognize 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 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 unorganized sector which is at present non-existent in India.
Due to the variety of industries present in India, there are varying trends in occupationally related health conditions from one industry to another. A few common occupational health-related conditions encountered in heavy industries, and in those categorized 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.
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