Tata Institute of Social Sciences
Mumbai | Tuljapur | Guwahati | Hyderabad


According to World Health Organisation, "the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard
of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being..." Even after 76 years of
Independence public health in India still remains to be one of the major challenges of the
state. Though India is one of the signatories of the Alma Ata declaration of 1978, which
aimed at “Health for All by 2000”, some of the health indicators are worse than that of the
least developed countries. While struggling to deal with double burden of diseases, the
issues such as severe malnutrition and maternal mortality continue to unsettle whatever
little progress India made in the past few decades. The recent pandemic COVID-19 further
exacerbated already existing public health issues.

Issues such as social and economic stratification and resultant exclusion in the access to
health services are another important area of concern. India being highly stratified society
in terms of caste, class and gender, the inequities are very much reflected in the health
outcomes as well to a great extent. Rural and urban divide in the health inputs and
outcomes is another area of concern for the health policy makers. Similarly some of the
tribal areas of different parts of India have one of the worst health indicators of the region.

As the economy is growing, the issue of access to affordable health services still troubles
bulk of the population. India being one of the most privatized health systems in the world,
the out of pocket expenditure on health is one of the highest in the world. With the
introduction of WTO-TRIPS compliant product patent regime and with the increasing
takeovers of domestic pharmaceutical companies by foreign players, the drug prices are
skyrocketing at unprecedented levels. Thus, increasing drug prices are also a burden to
both the patients and public exchequer.

Even though the government has introduced massive programmes such as National Health
Mission (NHM), the sector still continues to face systemic problems. It is also important to
note that the efforts have been initiated by the government to introduce universal health
coverage. The state level discrepancy in health indicators is another set of challenges when
national level programmes are planned and implemented. A systematic approach which
includes preventive, rehabilitative and curative aspects is needed to deal with the health
issues in India. Therefore, the present context demands qualified and trained workforce for
the health sector.

The Social work professionals provide unique services to the people during disaster,
pandemic and other public emergencies such as COVID 19. During such challenging
times, social workers have always strived hard to ensure the inclusive service provisioning
as well as facilitating physical distancing and social solidarity through campaigns and
orientation programmes across the country. In the contemporary times, disaster
preparedness from a public health perspective is highly valued.

Nature of the Programme

MA Social Work (Public Health) is a programme introduced in 2013 in TISS Guwahati
Campus. Social work in public health course aims to equip students with an
interdisciplinary understanding of India’s health system as well as health problems so that
they will have a better understanding of the health realities in India. The effort is to
develop evidence-based, context-specific and resource-sensitive practitioners of public
health. The course also aims to develop skills in social work professionals to analyse health
issues and problems at micro, meso and macro levels.

The fieldwork is an important component of the programme. The field work is designed to
provide the students with an interface between classroom education and actual practice so
that they get a practical grasp of the social issues and problems. For the fieldwork students
are placed at various agencies in the different parts of India. Most of the students are
placed in health settings. The students are able to gain insightful knowledge and experience
during fieldwork. Fieldwork Seminars are also organised to share about students’ work and
other field engagements.

It is envisaged that students of this course might make choices that include working with
individuals, families, groups and communities in difficult settings across national and
international NGOs, government agencies, becoming independent practitioners and
activists, or engage in research based work.

This course is designed to enable the students to understand both the health systems as well
as health situation in India through class room engagements and fieldwork. This course
will enable students to work in different settings such as tribal, rural and urban. The class
room engagements will help the students to understand various theories, ideologies and
policies with regard to public health in the micro, meso and macro socio-economic,
political and cultural contexts. The fieldwork is designed to provide exposure to various
health systems and practices. During the fieldwork students are placed in developmental
organizations working on health issues. Apart from these, students will get opportunity to
organize and participate in various national and regional seminars and conferences on
health issues.

Objectives of the course

1. To understand the scope of social work practice in public health within a developmental
and human rights perspective.
2. To develop skills of working with individuals, groups and communities on public health
3. To develop skills in work at micro, meso and macro levels through strategic planning,
governance, advocacy, activism, and research in a variety of institutional and non-
institutional settings, and contexts including disaster and conflict.
4. To develop ability to work with other human sciences with an inter-disciplinary
5. To develop sensitivity to various ethical issues and practices in public health and social
work and engage actively in various regulatory bodies overseeing health ethics and human

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