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Year : 2015  |  Volume : 40  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 5-7

Up gradation of departments of community medicine by setting up epidemiology resource centre: Need of an hour

Department of Community Medicine, Topiwala National Medical College and Bai Yamunabai Laxman Nair Charitable Hospital, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Date of Submission31-Aug-2013
Date of Acceptance26-Oct-2013
Date of Web Publication13-Jan-2015

Correspondence Address:
Gajanan D Velhal
Department of Community Medicine, Topiwala National Medical College and Bai Yamunabai Laxman Nair Charitable Hospital, Mumbai - 400 008, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0970-0218.149261

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How to cite this article:
Velhal GD. Up gradation of departments of community medicine by setting up epidemiology resource centre: Need of an hour. Indian J Community Med 2015;40:5-7

How to cite this URL:
Velhal GD. Up gradation of departments of community medicine by setting up epidemiology resource centre: Need of an hour. Indian J Community Med [serial online] 2015 [cited 2021 Jun 15];40:5-7. Available from: https://www.ijcm.org.in/text.asp?2015/40/1/5/149261

Besides academic teaching and trainings, Departments of Community Medicine have been adopting, various roles such as center for extending community services through urban/rural health centers, satellite center for hospital-based disease surveillance, outreach services on behalf of Medical College Hospital, facilitation of public health initiatives (i.e., School Health services under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Technical/operational support to National Health Programs), promotion of epidemiological perspectives in research activities and guidance for appropriate use of bio-statistical methods, and so on. With growing importance of the subject, it is imperative that the departments introspect their role, with due considerations to the expectations of the students, faculties, other external stakeholders, and collaborators. Establishment of Epidemiology Resource Center (ERC), as an extension cell, especially among the medical colleges where there are no separate departments of biostatistics, would be an appropriate response to the demands of present times. It is envisaged as a separate cell/unit within the Department of Community Medicine, for the benefit of the entire institute, all the faculties and students, which would take up the responsibility of provision of scientific technical support in development of research studies, data management, deriving relevant information, and intelligence out of it, to fulfill the expectations of the researchers. ERC would serve the purpose of core cell/hub center, to make all the services available for scientific research, right from development of proposal to final analysis of data with application of appropriate statistical methods.

Why do we need ERC

It has become the felt need of the students and faculties to have technical and operational support system at Medical College level for promotion of analytical advanced research with epidemiological approach, as mentioned below:

  1. In most of the Medical Colleges, in India (except where there are separate Departments of Biostatistics), there are no formal unit/cell at the institute level, which provides technical support to faculties and students in development of absolute scientific proposals with due consideration to epidemiological and statistical perspectives. Those who are in need of such support, usually contact senior faculty members of the college or outside experts.
  2. Proposals received at Postgraduate Academic Committee or Research Society are referred to senior faculty members of departments, for evaluation and their opinion regarding scientific appropriateness rather than epidemiological and statistical considerations.
  3. Demand for scientific research activities for publishing journal articles are increasing among junior faculty members, and undergraduate (UG)/postgraduate (PG) students, to fulfill the requirements for promotion to the next position in hierarchy and to opt for studies in foreign universities respectively.
  4. Technical support in processing the data for analysis and application of statistics is requested from other institutes like United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund, State and District acquired immunodeficiency syndrome Control Societies, Nursing Colleges, Dental Colleges.
  5. Departments of Community Medicine at many places are getting recognized for PhD studies.
  6. Limited scope is experienced for application of advanced statistics to the scientific articles, because of nonavailability of technical support at institute level
  7. There are no qualified epidemiologists and statistical experts, except one post each of Assistant Professor (Epidemiology) and Assistant Professor (Biostatistics) in Department of Community Medicine which are mandatory as per Medical Council of India guidelines. Present needs of faculties and students are unlikely to be met by these two faculties.
  8. Faculties and students are not aware of the basics of epidemiology and statistics. UG teaching in biostatistics is preliminary and often neglected by the students. There is no formal teaching in biostatistics for PG students.
  9. Research Methodology Workshops, held in the Medical colleges, have limited scope in terms of fulfilling practical demands of the researcher.
  10. There is no mechanism/system in place at the Medical Colleges, to certify appropriateness of statistical methods to scientific publications.

All these facts justify setting up ERC, for the benefit of the institute as a whole, including all faculties and students. This center, which is the need of the present time, would be one of the activities of academic excellence.

ERC would set its vision to evolve as one of the centers of excellence to promote scientific research activities at all possible levels, by undertaking the responsibilities of technical/operational support to develop proposals for epidemiological studies, analysis of data by using advanced statistical methods and capacity development of faculties, UG and PG students, in scientific writing skills by better understanding of statistical methods.

Technical/operational support and teaching/training activities which can be taken up by ERC are mentioned in [Table 1]. It is possible to think of enhancing the scope of ERC in future.
Table 1: Proposed list of activities of epidemiology resource center

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Extensive internet search on the services as stipulated here reveals that some of the foreign institutes have units under different names, for example, Center of Epidemiology and Research, Centre of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Clinical Epidemiology Division, Epidemiology and Biostatistics unit, and so on. [1],[2],[3],[4] Highly reputed medical colleges in our country, for example, AIIMS, BHU-Varanasi, CMC-Vellore, and KMC-Manipal have separate Departments of Biostatistics. [5],[6],[7],[8]

   Requirement of Resources Top

The functioning of the unit can be started on a small scale with available resources at the Department level (Assistant Professor-Epidemiology and Assistant Professor-Biostatistics). With growing work, the full-fledged set up envisages additional inputs of physical facilities for computer unit and training cell (at least two rooms of 200 sq. ft. each), material support, that is, computers and laptops (at least five each) and additional manpower like data entry operators and statistics experts. Material and manpower provision can be made from Department Development fund or other financial options, to begin with (around 2-3 lakhs) and subsequently through the user charges, and mobilization of funds from other National and International donor agencies. It may be possible to make the center self-sufficient financially and an independent entity, under Department of Community Medicine.

In order to establish, operationalize and mainstream the functioning of the center, formulation of Apex Committee, Working Committee, and identification of nodal person level (Professor/Associate Professor), with specific portfolios may be worked out. Discussing the scope of ERC among the senior faculty members, to bring forth appropriate mind set at top level authorities, networking with already existing statutory bodies like Research Society, Staff Society, Welfare Associations, and so on, brain storming meetings on feasibility, sustainability, and financial considerations and wide advocacy at the levels of University, Medical colleges and Professional bodies, are the prerequisite measures to initiate positive and supportive thinking in this direction.

   References Top

National Center for Health Statistics. Available from: www.cdc.gov/nchs [Last accessed on 2013 Aug 26].  Back to cited text no. 1
Epidemiology Resource Centre, Indiana State Department of Health. Available from: www.in.gov/isdh/25254.htm [Last accessed on 2013 Aug 26].  Back to cited text no. 2
Alaska Native Epidemiology Centre. Available from: www.anthctoday.org/epicenter [Last accessed on 2013 Aug 26].  Back to cited text no. 3
Medical Research Council. Available from: www.mrc.ac.uk [Last accessed on 2013 Aug 27].  Back to cited text no. 4
Department of Biostatistics. Available from: www.aiims.edu/aiims/departments/Biostatistics/Biointro.htm [Last accessed on 2013 Aug 29].  Back to cited text no. 5
Department of Statistics. Available from: www.bhu.ac.in/statistics [Last accessed on 2013 Aug 29].  Back to cited text no. 6
Department of Biostatistics. Available from: www.cmc-biostatistics.ac.in [Last accessed on 2013 Aug 29].  Back to cited text no. 7
Department of Statistics. Available from: www.manipal.edu/institutions/universitydepartment/statistics [Last accessed on 2013 Aug 29].  Back to cited text no. 8


  [Table 1]


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