The Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health (CSMCH) was established in 1971 in order to shape, and to provide academic content, to the discipline of public health, making it relevant to the situation in India. It was recognized that the discipline of Preventive and Social Medicine needed a paradigm shift that could only be provided if this Centre was set up outside the confines of a medical college.
Over the past four decades, the Centre has acquired vast experience in evolving problem-oriented inter-disciplinary academic programmes in public health, in addition to building an active research base. At the same time, efforts have also been made at establishing institutional links with various academic, research, policy-making and non-governmental organizations.
Under the overall objectives of creating academic programmes for making health services meaningful to the people of the country, the Centre has set out as its objective the task of understanding the health problems and health needs of the mass of Indian people. The endeavour is to understand how health problems are shaped by socio-economic factors and to examine the social structure itself, to delineate the structural constraints that contour the scope of technical health knowledge and health interventions. The task requires an interdisciplinary 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.
Beginning in the nineteen seventies, the academic content of the Centre were shaped by Prof. D. Banerji (a doctor with added training in anthropology), Prof. Imrana Qadeer, (a paediatrician), and Prof. P. Ramalingaswamy (a social psychologist). Over the next decade, they were joined by Dr. Binayak Sen (a paediatrician), Prof. Dipankar Gupta (a sociologist) and Dr. SK. Sahu (an anthropologist). The current faculty is the third or fourth generation of such scholars of diverse backgrounds adding to the inter-disciplinary mix of the faculty in our Centre. We have today an equal number of scholars with a medical background as those with social science backgrounds. All faculties supervise the research of students of diverse backgrounds and disciplines. This makes the Centre a uniquely creative one in the country. No other public health school for instance offers courses in the political economy of health, or gender and health or teaches the politics of nutrition and communicable disease programme and family planning.
Overview of Academic Programmes
The Centre provides facilities for the following academic programmes:
- M.Phil. in Social Sciences in Health
- Master of Public Health
- Ph.D. Programme
All courses have an interdisciplinary content covering areas such as organization of health services, national health programmes, epidemiology, nutrition, maternal and child health, communicable diseases, research methodology, health systems research, community health nursing and various concepts and methods in social sciences relevant for public health. The course work includes exposure to field work in both urban and rural areas and attempts to develop capacities for critical analysis using qualitative and quantitative data. Students are offered a number of optional courses covering issues in public health. They get an opportunity to familiarise themselves with current issues through an intensive Journal Club in the second semester. Assessment is through written tests, assignments, seminar presentation and group discussions.