Making Health and Development a Reality for the people of India
41st AGBM of VHAI
41st Annual General Body Meeting of Voluntary Health Association of India Held in New Delhi, 24th September 2015

Voluntary Health Association of India organized its 41st Annual General Body Meeting on 24th September 2015 at New Delhi. VHAI and its state partners along with board members meet annually to discuss issues of critical concern to the health and development in the country, particularly from the perspective of their work in different sectors. Professionals from various walks of life – doctors, social activists, health workers, leading businessman who have given decades of service to the social developmental work constitute this group.

The theme for this years’ 41st Annual General Body Meeting was "Vision 2025" and the sessions were interactive and enriching.

Welcome and Introductions:
Mr. Alok Mukhopadhyay gave a warm welcome to all the participants of the AGBM.

There was a round of introduction by all participants. He expressed his gratitude that everyone was present on the occasion of 41st AGBM of VHAI. A warm welcome was given to Chief Guest, Prof D Banerji and all recipients of Fr Tong Centenary awards. Honorary Secretary, VHAI Board was called upon to conduct the introduction and felicitation of new CEO and ED.

Mr. Raj Vaidya introduced Ms. Bhavna Mukhopadhyay and Dr Pramaesh Bhatnagar. Dr Nagrath and Dr Garg felicitated the new CEO and ED of VHAI. Dr Lepcha too warmly welcomed them.

Ms. Bhavna Mukhopadhyay, Chief Executive, VHAI welcomed the participants and stated that her 23 years of experience in VHAI has been an humbling experience and she is honoured and privileged to work in the field of Public Health and Development. She stated that she had heard of Fr. Tong and his contribution to Community health and how Mr.Mukhopadhyay has carried forward the movement of Public Health and Fr Tong’s legacy. She stated that VHAI would continue to need Alokji’s guidance and support. She said she has worked with legal forums, parliamentarians, policy makers and the challenges of NCD’s are increasing. She urged the state VHA’s to support her and expected their continued guidance. She highlighted the need to address the issue of gender equality and wanted more women on decision making tables. She said that she was pleased to share her responsibilities with Dr Bhatnagar. » Dr Bhatnagar, ED VHAI spoke on his journey in VHAI and how he was motivated by Mr. Alok Mukhopadhyay to continue working with VHAI. He stated that in the changing environment, VHAI shall continue to need his advice and support.

Session- Fr Tong Centenary Awards: Prof D Banerji and Mr. Alok Mukhopadhyay were welcomed to the dais. Mr. Mukhopadhyay recollected his association with Prof D Banerji which was way back in 1978 when he had first met him in Maharashtra. He reminisced Prof Banerji’s meeting with Dr C.P. Thakur then health Minister. He spoke about his association with Fr. Tong, when Fr. Tong had come to visit him at Oxfam in 1982 for the translation of “Where there is no Doctor”. He stated that Fr Tong was a Karamyogi and a visionary and because of pioneers like Fr Tong we have the concept of Community health.

Prof. D Banerji recollected his association with Fr. Tong when the latter had met him with the concept of Social science of hospital administration.He related how VHAI had given a platform for building of links on community health. He related that after 35 years of Independence in 1982 a National Health Policy was formulated, VHAI gave a platform to work on RNTCP, VHAI gave a platform to conduct major analysis on loopholes in NACO, and also gave its inputs on Draft Policy on Health in 2014. He stated that he had a tremendous sense of satisfaction and was privileged to be associated with VHAI. The Fr. Tong Centenary institutional award was given to CHAI and ED, CHAI was pleased to receive the award.

Prof. Ranjit Roy Choudhury was awarded the Fr. Tong Centenary award for his contribution to the field of Public health. Prof. Choudhury fondly remembered his interaction with Fr Tong as his student. He described Fr Tong as “A man with enthusiasm, absolutely fair, disciplinarian with a motive to bring everybody in and not to leave out anyone.”

Dr L.M.Nath was honoured and deeply grateful for having being conferred with this award. He remembered seeing Fr. Tong with Fr Morraine at Patna. He was appreciative of the underlying concept and principles of VHAI on community health. The next awardee was Dr. Ramesh Nagrath who stated that it was a matter of great honour to receive the award and that VHAI and State VHA’s should focus on sustainable network to promote partnership for a just society.

The 4th awardee was Dr. Raj Vaidya who related his initial association with VHAI and was honoured to receive the award and dedicated it to the VHAI family. Dr. Lepcha was awarded for her significant contribution to rural health in Sikkim. She stated on openness, transparency and the need for continued work to help the downtrodden. The 6th awardee was Dr. G Q Allaquaband who related his journey into medical profession and public health and was honoured to have received such a prestigious award dedicated in the memory of Fr Tong.

Dr. Mir of J&K VHA felicitated Mr. Alok Mukhopadhyay with a special award. He spoke about Mr. Alok’s compassion and optimism. He remembered his help and support during the devastating flood. He recollected the efforts of VHAI to start the Shadab and Shehzaah project and how Governor Vohra always appreciates VHAI’s relentless efforts. Prof. Banerji released the new publications in honour of Fr. Tong and Ms. Bhavna Mukhopadhyay proposed the Vote of Thanks. Session- Vision 2025: Mr. Alok Mukhopadhyay presented the draft document and stated that a conclusive document shall be framed only after inputs from the state VHA’s.

He highlighted the IMR, MMR and Immunization data that India has achieved and how we are still worse than Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. He raised concern on 14th Finance commission’s report on cooperative federalism and the concern of allowing states to decide on the allocation of funds to schemes and running programmes. He highlighted the 4 sectors in providing health care, their roles in the present scenario and their role after the implementation of the proposed suggestions of 14th Finance commission. He mentioned that 60% of all deaths is due to chronic diseases and the possible interventions to combat NCD’s are

  • School Health promotion
  • Advocacy to combat growing problem of health destroying products
  • Promotion of Sports and healthy lifestyle
  • Role of IT and media
  • Utilization of traditional system of medicine
  • Promoting healthy environment
  • Health Promotion in work settings
  • Optimal utilization of health workforce to promote health and well being of the people
  • Tracking the issues of road traffic accidents ( 2nd largest cause of death)
  • Sensitization of general public about health issues and concerns.
  • The need to counter advertisements
Mr. Alok Mukhopadhyay spoke on strengthening CSO’s role in NCD’s. He spoke on involvement in existing government programmes and how VHAI should focus on active participation in global forum for health promotion. He emphasized on the need to meet donors and funding agencies. He spoke on challenges of sustainability of CSO’s. He said NGO’s are economically fragile, many a times there is no clear response from the Government, problems with funds release, gradual withdrawal of International NGO’s , bureaucratic harassment, increasing cost of hiring competent technical people, blurred distinction between profit and not for profit sector, diminished government budget for health sector ( 1.7% of total budget on health), state does not spend allocated budget as they state they are harassed for utilization certificate and growing presence of private sector in health care.

He highlighted VHAI’s innovative projects like Khoj, role of ICDHI in policy planning, Advocacy, communication skills and films of change. He said that VHAI is engaging in dialogues with Indian Oil and Public Health England. The discussion after Mr. Alok Mukhopadhyay’s presentation revolved around on a need for micro level implementable doable interventions. It was pointed out that the issue of pollution too should be focused upon especially the problems in Punjab due to usage of pesticides in agriculture. The matter of utilization of CSR funds was highlighted, the need for introspection of NGO’s in the health sector reformation was highlighted and it was stated that voluntary sector health care too should generate resources and have the right to earn higher wages as private sector.

Concerns on TB deaths, the need to take up occupational health, the issue of transition in the green revolution belt too were raised. The core problems of untreated water, high pesticide content, toxics, issue of environmental pollution, and implications of pesticides on health are issues which VHAI should work on were emphasized. Another issue which was highlighted was trauma faced by woman and children in Manipur due to social unrest, trafficking, closing down of educational institutions. The health status of woman especially working woman is grim. Interventions are needed for maternal health, woman facing miscarriages, and mental health.

Session: Group Discussion and Presentations on Vision 2025: The participants were divided into 3 groups for deliberations on the points of discussion raised by Mr. Alok Mukhopadhyay. After discussions within their own group, the group leaders presented a brief of issues, challenges and proposed interventions.

Group 1 deliberated on School health promotion and healthy environment. It was emphasized that concurrent health check-up should be taken up. Intervention should be at the curriculum level. With increased incidence of NCD’s, the need to build capacity of teachers was emphasized, and absenteeism should be used as a monitoring indicator. The actions should be on Policy Analysis, community monitoring, creating a social lobby, focus on environmental hazards, evidences should be compiled and State VHA’s should give their feedback on the environmental rules which are under revision

Group 2 discussed policy level strengthening of Public Health System, how to make service providers more accountable, addressing equity, waste management/pollution control, control of essential drug pricing, promotion of generic medicines. It highlighted that 4th tier of health system is home and health promotion should start at home itself. Physical activity should be a part of curriculum, fortified food to be banned in Mid Day meals, encourage sports quota and a formulation of school health policy. There was need for NGO Private partnership

Group 3 focused on health and social issues, reproductive and sexual health issues, mental health, food contamination due to chemicals, occupational and manmade hazards, malnutrition and road / railway accidents. This group heighted on state wise issues like agro chemicals have health damging impact in Punjab, food and water contamination in Kerala, manmade degradation of HP, ground water depletion in Rajasthan, Disaster management in Kashmir, problem of NCD’s in Kashmir and rise of mental health in Gujarat.

It was unanimously decided that VHAI should make efforts towards advocacy and enforcement of policies, resource mobilization, capacity building of state VHA’s and to lobby at Central Government level for release of funds and timely intervention in state level programmes.

Mr. Alok Mukhopadhyay summed up all the discussion saying that all these inputs will be put on board and will be incorporated in the Vision 2025 document in best possible way which will be again circulated to State VHAs before finalising it in January 2016.
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