Getting to the root of health issues: Public Health is an important dimension in society and as a new discipline, it aims to create awareness about health-related issues in the community in order to prevent them. “Public health is distinctly apart from medical studies as it is not clinical based, and focuses on prevention-based techniques,” Assistant Professor Purnalaxmi Maharjan at National Open College (NOC), Sanepa informs the core idea about this subject. .
As such it works closely with community to create awareness on improving health standards of people. “We work on prevention measures and minimisation of health costs rather than just sending people to hospitals,” he adds. .
This new approach to medicine and health is being offered in the undergraduate level by Tribhuvan University (TU), Pokhara University and Purbanchal University and colleges affiliated to these universities. It is being offered as an eight-semester, four-year course. .
If you are suffering from diarrhoea, a doctor prescribes you the medicine to treat it. But a public health specialist goes to the root of the problem – symptoms and causes of diarrhoea – to find ways to prevent the disease in a community. .
“Doctors are limited to their clinics and prescribing medicines whereas public health specialists work in and for the society,” points out Janak Thapa, Principal of Little Buddha College of Health and Sciences, Minbhawan. .
Their research is based on subjects like Environmental Health and Ecosystem, Community Health Organisation and Development, Epidemiology and Biology among others along with term paper preparations and practical skill development.
As per educator Tripti Shrestha at Manmohan Memorial Institute of Health Sciences, Soaltee Mode, the subject of Public Health combines management, communication, pharmacy, sociology and other basic sciences for a holistic approach to study medicine within society.
Students who have passed the secondary level with C+ and Biology as a major are eligible to appear for Bachelor of Public Health’s (BPH) entrance examination.
The course, that was never even an option for students earlier, has become a lead-
ing choice in the medical faculty today after Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS), claims Prof Dr Archana Amatya, Head of Public Health Department, TU citing the increasing number of applicants.
As such the seats at TU-affiliated colleges have gone upto 40 from 30 in the last four years. Meanwhile, Pokhara and Purbanchal universities take in 60 to 70 students.
The shift to Bachelor of Public Health is mainly due to its sub-medical nature.
“We have a rigid societal structure — parents still want their children to be a doctor as it is considered the most respectful occupation. Students give it (MBBS) a try but not all get through,” Shrestha cites of the trend in Manmohan.
The next option is BPH
Pratikshya Poudel is one such student at Man- mohan. “It was a haphazard choice, but it has been re- warding, gaining a social to management perspective on medicine,” adds this IIIrd Year student.
Another student, Sumina Adhikari from Pokhara-affiliated NOC is a similar case and the best part about this course is that “I can show- case and hone my skills of communication”.
The IInd Semester student of BPH wishes to go abroad to pursue Master of Public Health (MPH) to gain a broader perspective and “it’s a relative choice”
Though BPH was just an option after not making it through MBBS, Rubin Ghimire, a IVth semester student from Little Buddha College, wants to serve in the rural area after he completes his studies.
“I have built this interest of doing something for rural communities — I wish to focus on developing rural health and promote rural development,” he shares. He wishes to study MPH in Germany and return to work with the rural communities here.
Scope and opportunities
From governmental, non- governmental, private, educational and research sectors, the scope for Public Health students are as wide as it can get.
“For students who are dedicated, competent and not studying for the sake of studying, the doors are open for you to embark on a successful professional career,” Thapa opines.
He emphasises BPH develops a student towards becoming a manager, technical person, researcher and a great academician.
From health posts in communities to getting a secured job through Public Service Commission, Shrestha says students can apply any where. “Even educational institutions lack full-time staff as most of them are part-time teachers. You can lead projects for various INGOs and NGOs and also become an independent researcher.”
As the course is a necessity worldwide, it is not even necessary to be limited to Nepal.
But “it will be better to implement your knowledge locally since the course emphasises on adjusting as per the requirement, area and situation,” Asst Prof Maharjan highlights.
- Manmohan Memorial In- stitute of Health Sciences Cost: Rs 6,94,000
- Little Buddha College of Health and Sciences Cost: Rs 6,25,000
- National Open College Cost: Rs 9,90,000 (approximately)
Interdisciplinary and updating
The course which includes Anthropology to Biology has also created dilemma for students. Poudel is having difficulties in shaping her career direction. “There’s no particular path- way. There are so many subjects to choose from. I have been thinking of Epidemiology but am confused about my employment direction.
For such a problem, Shrestha opines that institutions should focus on career counselling for students. “We need to recognise their strengths and help them to hone it in that field.”
To hone one’s interest and skills, educators like her wish their students to not just “rely on teachers’ handouts, notes and limited books”. “It is a subject that is always being updated and of a technical nature where we have to upgrade knowledge — this requires a lot of self-research and an analytical attitude.”
HIMALAYANTIMES (Sep 20, 2018) Himalayan News Service Kathmandu