Since last week, the top public health NGO Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) has been in the crosshairs of the NDA government, barred from accepting foreign funds. But not very long ago, it was the preferred partner of not just the UPA government but many BJP governments in states as well.
As recently as October last year, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani inaugurated the state-of-the-art new campus of the Indian Institute of Public Health- Gandhinagar (IIPHG), the western regional campus of the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI). In 2007, Narendra Modi, as CM, had done the bhoomi pujan for this university.
In 2015, the BJP government of Chhattisgarh, represented by health minister Ajay Chandrakar, signed an MoU with PHFI to upgrade specialist doctors in Naxal-hit Bastar. Subsequently, the Chhattisgarh government, in collaboration with UNICEF & PHFI, started work to attract and retain specialised human resources for health in the districts Bijapur and Sukma.
Incidentally, the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, the economic wing of the RSS, has been severely critical of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which is one of the contributors, along with the government of India, to the PHFI seed fund and continues to be one of its donors.
Consider some of the other key projects the PHFI has worked on with BJP governments/municipal authorities:
n The government of Gujarat in October 2013 signed an MoU with PHFI and adopted the Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM) training model of the foundation for its medical officers. PHFI trained 38 officers from Gujarat.
n In August 2015, Anil Mukim, Additional Chief Secretary of the government of Gujarat, wrote to Dileep Mavalankar, director of IIPH Gandhinagar: “I am happy to write this letter appreciating the work which IIPH has done to help Gujarat government on various issues and policy formation, programme design, documenting government work and helping improve implementation of health programmes.”
Several activities were listed in the letter, including designing new health-care centres. The state government also worked with PHFI on community mobilisation, capacity building, research under the Strengthening of Tobacco Control Efforts Through Innovative Partnerships and Strategies (STEPS) programme.
# In September 2015, the government of Madhya Pradesh signed an MoU with PHFI under which 45 officers from MP were trained by PHFI. The same year, the MP government also engaged PHFI for a training program for civil surgeons and a programme for block medical officers on public health leadership.
#In 2015 PHFI conducted three types of training programmes for government of Chhattisgarh on public health, leadership and governance. This is apart from its role in ensuring availability of specialist doctors at the state’s first fully operational Maternal and Child Health (MCH) wing “Umang” in Naxal-affected Bijapur. It was inaugurated on January 31, 2017 by CM Raman Singh.
# BJP-controlled Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation in association with Indian Institute of Public Health, Gandhinagar and partners launched the Heat Action Plan (HAP) in 2013, a first of its kind comprehensive early warning system and preparedness plan for extreme heat events in South Asia. The plan piloted an innovative early warning system and disaster contingency plans and brought down heat wave mortality by 30%. Now being scaled up in other states like Maharashtra, HAP was displayed at the health ministry pavilion at the COP 2015 event in Paris.
PHFI’s association with the NDA government at the Centre though goes beyond its partnership with the health ministry that has now told the PMO that it contributed as much money to the PHFI seed fund as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The ministry for development of the northeastern region (DONER), under the Technical Assistance & Capacity Building Scheme towards strengthening human resource and health systems in the North Eastern Region, gave a grant-in-aid to PHFI.
The first phase of the project is to be implemented in Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh.