E-System for Public Health in India: Towards an Architectural Framework Incorporating Illiteracy and Linguistic Diversity

E-System for Public Health in India: Towards an Architectural Framework Incorporating Illiteracy and Linguistic Diversity

Rajneesh Chowdhury (PricewaterhouseCoopers, India) and Deepankar Medhi (University of Missouri–Kansas City, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-860-4.ch006
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Abstract

Public health stands for the study and practice of those activities and initiatives that result in the prevention and reduction of incidences of illnesses and diseases in the population. The application of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) can considerably facilitate Public Health project initiatives. In spite of the huge benefits of using ICT in Public Health, it can also pose considerable challenges in certain populations, pertaining to the access and comprehension of information shared through modern technology stemming from a range of issues such as illiteracy, demographic and linguistic diversity, differing economic strata of people, and differing priorities. In this chapter, after presenting a discussion on the issues faced by the public and relevant systems thinking approaches that may enable addressing the same, we propose a visionary architectural framework for ICT in Public Health through the eye of systems-thinking. We have called this framework e-System for Public Health (ePH). The understanding draws heavily from the Indian context as the country presents an interesting array of the challenges that we have mentioned above.
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What Is Public Health?

We have defined Public health as the study and practice of those activities and initiatives that result in the prevention and reduction of illnesses and diseases in the population. What accounts for rectification of diseases when there is an outbreak, does not represent Public Health; rather, the process of designing and implementing initiatives that will result in the prevention of such incidences in the first place will account for Public Health. These may include educating the public and raising their awareness of health and disease specific issues, and implementing health and hygiene initiatives. Hence, Public Health does not mean treatment. Public Health can therefore be classified as being proactive rather than being reactive, and being preventive rather than being curative. Dasgupta (2005) notes:

Public health services are architecturally distinct from medical services. They have as a key goal to reduce a population’s exposure to disease, for example through assuring food safety and other health regulations; vector control; monitoring waste disposal and water systems; and health education to improve personal health behaviors and build citizen demand for better public health outcomes (p.1).

Public health normally consists of community-wide health and welfare initiatives that are ideally facilitated by the government, and in certain cases supported by Non Government Organizations (NGOs), international bodies and self-help groups.

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