Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI)
Fellowship Site Directors: K.M. Venkat Narayan, MD, MSc, MBA (Emory University)
D. Prabhakaran, MD, DM Cardiology, MSc (PHFI)
Site specialties: heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cardiometabolic diseases, eye diseases
The PHFI is a public private partnership, established in 2006 with initial funding from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (Government of India), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and notable Indian philanthropists. From its inception, it was mandated to establish a strong national research network of public health and allied institutions that would undertake policy- and program-relevant research to advance public health goals in priority areas.
- PHFI is recognized as a Research Institution of Excellence by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.
- Currently, there are >400 faculty and research staff (30+ PhD fellows) working on approximately 60 projects of public health concern.
- Research is funded by grants from international agencies, including Wellcome Trust, U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Norwegian Government, Bloomberg Global Initiative, WHO, World Bank, USAID, and UNICEF.
- PHFI and Emory University have been collaborators for the past 10 years, with multiple funded projects that are co-led by PHFI and Emory investigators.
- PHFI has four Centres of Excellence: the Centre for Chronic Conditions and Injuries, the South Asia Centre for Disability Inclusive Development and Research (SACDIR), the Ramalingaswami Centre on Equity and Social Determinants of Health, and the TATA Centre for Environmental Health.
- PHFI was selected by the Government of India Planning Commission to serve as the secretariat to provide technical support to the High Level Expert Group on Universal Health Coverage (UHC). They have been mandated to roll out pilot projects in districts in Karnataka an Kerala for phased implementation of UHC, in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the state governments of Karnataka and Kerala.
- PHFI is also the site of the Centre for Control of Chronic Conditions (CCCC), a collaboration between PHFI, Emory University, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine that is also the secretariat for IC-HEALTH, a joint program of the Global Forum for Health Research (GFHR) and the WHO (NCD Cluster) to promote and prioritize resource-sensitive and context specific research addressing the growing burden of cardiovascular diseases in the developing countries. The board of IC-HEALTH is chaired by the president of PHFI.
A Training Division was established at PHFI in 2008 to address the primary focus of capacity building, with ongoing academic courses as well as short-term courses and in-service training on areas of current importance in public health. Thematic focus areas include: health systems, chronic conditions and injuries, infectious diseases, public health nutrition, tobacco control, women and child health, and research. PHFI also conducts certificate courses in diabetes management, gestational diabetes mellitus, prevention and management of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, management of thyroid disorders, health emergencies in large populations, and management of hypertension. Certificate courses are conducted at PHFI’s related Institutes of Public Health and through interactive, online courses developed by PHFI faculty. PHFI’s Certificate Course on Evidence-Based Diabetes Management (CCBDM) is the first globally recognized model to train primary care physicians in evidence-based diabetes management. It is recognized by the International Diabetes Federation and has trained nearly 4000 professionals to date.
PHFI has also established Indian Institutes of Public Health (IIPHs) on multiple campuses throughout the country, with the aims of combining education and research activities relevant to India while attaining standards that are among the best in the world. The IIPHs (currently in Delhi, Gandhinagar, Bhubaneswar, and Hyderabad) deliver full-time graduate and postgraduate diplomas in addition to conducting short-term training programs and workshops, with fully residential campuses for students and faculty at some of the sites. National programs like the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), as well as state and regional health initiatives, are also assisted by the IIPHs.
As in many other countries, there is a significant divide between academic research and the needs of policymakers in India. PHFI has tried to bridge this gap by interacting closely with state and national government officials. They maintain a strong research environment across six locations. In order to build scale and collaborations, PHFI has started organizing bi-annual research symposiums that bring all research staff together to present their work. These gatherings allow researchers to share information and discuss opportunities to think about strategic directions, research priorities and research platforms for PHFI at an institutional level. Although much of PHFI’s research is conducted at the headquarters in New Delhi and the four IIPHs, a growing trend has been to consolidate research in Centres of Excellence, as noted above.
PHFI is organized into:
- Program Divisions: Education, Research, Training, Health Communication, Health Systems Support
- Constituent Units: IIPHs, Centres of Research
- Operations Divisions: Finance, HR, Infrastructure and Facilities, IT, Administration, Legal
In conjunction with the Centre for Chronic Disease Control (New Delhi), a Genetics and Biochemistry Laboratory (GBL) has been established where DNA and RNA extraction, as well as biochemical analyses of various biological specimens, is performed for various research projects. Additionally, an Institutional Ethics Committee (IEC) was established at PHFI to review all research proposals, provide guidance, and promote ethical conduct in research.
Key research themes of ongoing projects at PHFI include epidemiology, determinants of health, health system and policy, and capacity building. The research is also divided into four main disease areas: non-communicable diseases, adult infectious diseases, maternal and child health, and nutrition. Emerging areas include social determinants of health, public health law, patient safety, and environmental health.
Mental health projects at PHFI include: Emerging Mental Health Systems in Low- and Middle-Income Countries (EMERALD), Programme for Improving Mental Health Care (PRIME), and Program for Effective Mental Health Interventions in Under-resourced Health Systems (PREMIUM), among others.
PHFI also has numerous technology-supported, task shifting-based, chronic disease management projects across the spectrum of health care, including mWELLCARE (design of a mobile health software application to assist in diagnosis and management of hypertension and diabetes), UDAY (a comprehensive intervention package for control of hypertension and diabetes at the community and health systems levels), and SIMCARD (hypertension-focused technology solutions for front line health workers at primary health centers).
The CARRS Centre of Excellence, the aims of which are to conduct translational research, build capacity and connect science with policy, is currently implementing two major studies:
- the CARRS Cohort Study (PIs: Prabhakaran [PHFI] and Venkat Narayan [Emory]), which involves surveillance of non-communicable diseases in Chennai, New Delhi, and Karachi, Pakistan
- the CARRS Translation Trial (PIs: Tandon [PHFI] and Ali [Emory]), which is a multi-site, individually randomized controlled trial of cardiovascular risk reduction intervention in Type 2 diabetes patients attending outpatient clinics in the same cities in India and Pakistan
Other funded studies co-led by PHFI and Emory University investigators include:
Worksite Lifestyle Program for Reducing Diabetes and Cardiovascular Risk in India
(NIH R01 HL125442, PIs: Venkat Narayan, Prabhakaran)
This study will test the implementation, effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, and acceptability of a worksite lifestyle improvement program that includes lifestyle education classes led by trained individuals from the worksite.
(NIH D43 TW009135, PIs: Prabhakaran/Venkat Narayan)
Implementation sciences and leadership skills training course for public health professionals in South Asia and Latin America
PHFI also has a number of other ongoing research projects at any given time that can form the basis for a VECDor trainee project.
VECDor and PHFI staff will assist trainees in finding apartments in the nearby neighborhood areas before arrival. The monthly rent for decent accommodations ranges between 400-600 USD plus expenses for cable television, Internet access, water, and electricity. Also, trainees may use the inexpensive public transportation or arrange for daily pick-up service at their convenience.