Public health progress in India: An Interview with James Chauvin

Apr 10, 2014


James Chauvin during a hike at Table Mountain, Cape Town (South Africa).

Communications Officer Sushmita Malaviya interviews James Chauvin, President of the World Federation of Public Health Associations and Co-Chair of the 14th World Congress on Public Health, which will be held in Kolkata in 2015:


Your comments on India reaching its MDG goals?

While I am no expert on India, I would like to say that I am impressed with the Government of India's efforts on health. It is also important to commend the support of Indian civil society towards reaching these goals. India is seen as a model for others, because of the 50 percent decline in infant mortality. This is an amazing achievement.  Although there have been big challenges at the national level there have been remarkable progresses too.  

However, it is important to look at these achievements through the equity lens to understand where these benefits have gone.  Have all socio economic levels been covered? Are there some population groups and ethno-cultural communities that have been left out?

While a few countries like Rwanda are close to achieving their MDGs, it is important to understand the MDGs are milestones.  They are not the end of the road.  The MDGs should not stop Governments from continuing to invest in health, housing, education and job security, all of which have an impact on health.   

Your views on India's stride on public health, vis a vis maternal, newborn and child related diseases.

India has made great strides in areas such has immunization especially in the difficult to reach populations. This has to be appreciated, given its great geographical breath and width, its diverse population. India has also done very well on reproductive health by introducing new services and this has made it a role model for many other countries. It has also had considerable progress in childhood vaccine preventable diseases.

One area though that I feel India and many other countries need to work on is the issue of violence against women and girls. It is one thing for governments to pay lip service to this issue; but real progress has to be made at the front line. I would also add that it is also important to factor in mental health issues.

On the battle against diarrhea and pneumonia

Essential elements of water and sanitation a key way to prevent these diseases. In this direction, a lot has been done for access to safe drinking water, but work on sanitation remains. Not much attention has been paid to sanitation and there is still too much sensitivity around the subject. Attitudes around this have to change, we have to domore about sanitation. The returns on investment on sanitation are phenomenal.

What is a close link with your work and you as a person?

For 25 years I was involved in organizational and community capacity building and this has been my passion. The strong civil society voices around public health policy and best practices that are emerging are essential for democracy and a healthy society.