OEH Program in India Launched with UC Berkeley

India's first MPH program in occupational and environmental health (OEH) was officially launched in January 2010 by Sri Ramachandra University (SRU) in collaboration with UC Berkeley.

The program was a key objective of the SRU-Berkeley Inter-Institutional Collaboration spearheaded in 2002 by COEH member Kirk Smith of UC Berkeley and Professor Kalpana Balakrishnan of SRU.

UC Berkeley SPH Dean Stephen Shortell with Professors Kalpana Balakrishnan and Kirk Smith. (Photo courtesy of UC Berkeley SPH)

"What happened was a magical transformation from a one-on-one research collaboration to an institutional collaboration, taking it to a completely new platform," said Balakrishnan.

The initiative builds capacity for research and training in occupational and environmental health in India with support from the NIH Fogarty International Center. "For one-sixth of the human race living with a range of occupational and health risks, this is truly a milestone," says Smith.

The environmental disease burden is huge in India, Balakrishnan said on her visit to UC Berkeley in April. The program will fill a critical gap as India suffers from a tremendous shortage of trained professionals and inadequate resources for research in OEH. She confirmed several governmental agencies are showing their commitment by sending candidates for up to two years of study.

In addition to the OEH degree program, faculty from UC Berkeley and SRU collaborate on joint projects and publications. Six faculty from SRU have spent up to two semesters at UC Berkeley taking courses in areas of environmental health. "The most exciting spin-off is new research collaborations," said Balakrishnan.

Non-governmental agencies, independent research companies and community organizations are looking for people with developing country experience, noted Balakrishnan. "Very soon we will be in a position to offer UC Berkeley students the possibility to rotate with us. We have a government field station for summer interns who want a flavor of whether this might be a career interest for them."

Smith and UC Berkeley School of Public Health Dean Stephen Shortell attended the OEH program launch in Chennai, India. Shortell gave a CME lecture on chronic illness management and its implications for India. Smith delivered a lecture following the ceremony, "Mitigating climate, meeting the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs), and moderating chronic disease: the health co-benefits landscape for household energy."


Adapted from press releases from UC Berkeley's School of Public Health and Sri Ramachandra University

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