Dr. Sujeet Kumar Singh, Director NCDC
It has been more than a century since National Center for Disease Control (NCDC)’s establishment as Central Malaria Bureau at Kasauli (Himachal Pradesh) in 1909, the Institute has been carrying on its shoulder the prime responsibility of fighting against the communicable diseases in the country.
NCDC has contributed phenomenally in elimination and eradication of several diseases of public health importance such as Small Pox, Guinea worm, Lymphatic Filariasis and Yaws in the country. The country has been burdened with epidemics of emerging and reemerging diseases time and again. In the past, emergence of hitherto unreported diseases like SARS, H1N1 infection, Avian Influenza, recently reported outbreak of Crimean Congo Hemorrhagic Fever and also re-emergence of epidemics like Plague, Scrub Typhus, Leptospirosis etc. have all posed epidemic threats in the country. In every instance the institute has been endowed with the responsibility of undertaking epidemiological investigation on a war footing supported by the state of art laboratories providing prompt microbiological, biotechnological and entomological diagnosis.
Considering the excellent contribution during these threats of public health challenges, the institute has earned several recognitions viz. WHO collaborating Centre for Rabies Epidemiology and Regional Reference Laboratory for Polio both for South East Asia Region, National Reference Laboratory for HIV/AIDS, Laboratory Diagnosis of Iodine Deficiency, Testing of Insecticides are only few to name.
NICD (now NCDC) was entrusted with the task of country wide implementation of Integrated Disease Surveillance Project (IDSP), earlier a World Bank funded project. A significant progress has been made in implementation of IDSP with the setting up of an IT network connecting State, District Headquarters, Government Medical Colleges and important Public Health Institutes. Toll-free number (1075) has been operationalised for reporting of unusual disease events. A 24x7 Outbreak Monitoring Cell providing vital and timely information about various epidemic prone diseases is now operational.
The NCDC with its headquarters in Delhi and has eight outstation branches located at Alwar (Rajasthan), Bengaluru (Karnataka), Kozhikode-Calicut (Kerala), Coonoor (Tamil Nadu), Jagdalpur (Chhatisargh), Patna (Bihar), Rajahmundry (Andhra Pradesh) and Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh). Also, 22 new branches of NCDC are planned to be established in all the States & 1 Union territory.
There are 14 Technical Centres/Divisions at the NCDC headquarters viz. Centre of Epidemiology, Division of Microbiology, Division of Zoonosis, Centre for Medical Entomology & Vector Management (CME&VM), Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP), Centre for AIDS & Related Diseases (CARD), Division of Biochemistry & Toxicology, Division of Biotechnology, Division of Parasitic Disease (DPD), Division of Malariology & Coordination (M&C), Centre for Environment & Occupational Health (CE&OH), Centre for Non-Communicable Diseases (CNCD), Statistical Monitoring & Evaluation Centre (SM&EC) and Division of Planning, Budget & Administration (PBA). In each centre/division, there are sections and laboratories dealing with different communicable and non-communicable diseases. The activities of each division are supervised by the officer-in charge supported by medical and non-medical scientists, research officers and other technical and paramedical staff.
To meet the trained manpower requirements under the field of public health in the country, a-2 year MPH (Field Epidemiology) course (affiliated with GGSIP University, Delhi) and Field Epidemiology Training Programme (FETP) are being run.
A Global Health Security Agenda (GDD) - India Centre has also been established in NCDC recognizing the need to broaden cooperation on health especially emerging global diseases between India and USA. This is a joint collaboration between the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MOHFW), Government of India represented by NCDC and the US Department of Health and Human Service, represented by Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The GHSA- India Centre intends to focus cooperation on development of human resources both epidemiological and laboratory and sharing best practices for detection and responses to emerging infections wherever required.
In order to prevent the breeding of mosquitoes responsible as vectors of Dengue and Chikunguniya virus, an innovative cost effectiveness mosquito proof desert cooler has been designed by the Institute. The same has already been patented at the Patent Office of Government of India and had earned big name for the Institute in the form of prestigious award of ‘Certificate of Merit’ by the National Research Development Corporation (NRDC), Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India.
Antimicrobial resistance in pathogens causing important communicable diseases has been a matter of great public health concern globally including our country. Woth the objective to review the current scenario regarding manufacture use and misuse of antibiotics, to recommend the design for creation of a national Surveillance System for antibiotic resistance, to initiate studies documenting prescription patterns and establish a monitoring system for the antibiotic usage to enforce and enhance regulatory provisions for use of antibiotics in human veterinary and industrial sector and strengthening of laboratories for providing rapid and reliable diagnosis of infectious disease as well as monitoring of antimicrobial resistance, MOHFW during August, 2010 has constituted a National Task Force under the Chairmanship of DGHS, with Director, NCDC being the Member Secretary for containment of Antimicrobial resistance in the country.
In addition, a MoU has also been signed in February, 2009 between Government of India and Sweden in various areas of health including the key issue of containment of antimicrobial resistance.
In view of emerging and reemerging pathogens many of whom have already made entry into India, need for country-wide disease outbreak investigation and response as well as obligations under IHR (2005), it was considered necessary to expand the mandate of NCDC so as to meet broader challenges in public health in the pattern of CDC, USA with the rationale for development and strengthening of referral diagnostic support services, capacity building in public health, adoption of new technologies, as well as study the impact of climate change, urbanization and industrialization on disease.
A concept plan was developed in consultation with the experts from India Council of Medical Research, Premier Health Institutes, State Government, CDC (USA), WHO and World Bank etc. The same was presented before Planning Commission on July, 2007 who agreed in principle and advised to undertake independent Appraisal of NICD and to prepare detailed project report (DPR). Independent appraisal was conduced by an agency selected through open tender in which Department of Management Studies, IIT, New Delhi was short-listed and engaged. Subsequently, the report was submitted in May, 2008.
The institute is being upgraded to meet the upcoming challenges in public health. The various components of upgradation included Infrastructure, Equipments and Manpower. The proposed structure of upgraded NCDC would have two broad areas i.e. Epidemiology and disease Control and Referral Diagnostics and Laboratory Services. Cabinet has already approved the proposal with an approval budget of 382.41 crores with the budget components and infrastructure, equipments and manpower. NBCC has been engaged as agency for construction of civil and services works. Action to sign MoU between NCDC and NBCC is being undertaken. The progress of up gradation of NCDC is being monitoring by DGHS as the Chairman of Project Management Committee, Director, NCDC as the Chairman of the Task Force as well as through a dedicated Cell established as NCDC for day to day monitoring.
Ever since I had the privilege of joining this prestigious Institute as twenty third Director, I am overwhelmed by the support I received from my colleagues at the Institute as well as from officials at Dte.GHS and MOHFW. I feel inspired by such monumental support and aspire to broaden and strengthen my shoulder to take more and more responsibilities in future for the greater cause of tackling public health problem in the country.