Narotam Sekhsaria Foundation, British Medical Journal offer special training in palliative care for healthcare professionals to meet growing need in country

by Priya Jadhav

Organisations jointly launch e-learning course in palliative care, aim to reach out to India’s Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities

Mumbai, December 13: India has a very small percentage of trained palliative care specialists and lags behind western countries in providing the service, despite the growing need for it. Medical experts say that only 1-2% of the Indian population have access to such services.

One of the reasons for this is the lack of awareness among medicos as well as patients towards palliative care. At a time like this when there is a pressing need to upsurge the availability of palliative care in India, Narotam Sekhsaria Foundation (NSF) in association with British Medical Journal (BMJ) has launched a three-month Certification Course specially designed to empower doctors and nurses in palliative care.

A highlight of the course is that it is designed as an e-learning course which means healthcare professionals living in any part of the country can have easy access to the course. Digital learning will also allow medicos to learn at their own pace and convenience to understand the specialized field of palliative care more comprehensively.

The launch of the course took place at an event which was held at Walchand Hirachand Hall, IMC Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mumbai on 12th December 2019. The dignitaries on the occasion were Mr. Prashant Mishra - Managing Director - BMJ India & South Asia, Dr. Monique Kamat – CEO, Narotam Sekhsaria Foundation who spoke about NSF’s perspectives, Dr. Mary Ann Muckaden, Professor & Ex - Head, Palliative Medicine Dept., Tata Memorial Hospital who spoke about the scope of palliative care in the country and Dr. Naveen Salins – Professor and Head of the Department of Palliative Medicine and Supportive Care, Manipal University, Karnataka who is also the Course Director shared details about the course.

Palliative care includes a variety of medical services for those suffering from serious illnesses such as cancer, Alzheimer’s and other dementias, cardiovascular diseases (excluding sudden deaths), cirrhosis of liver, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, kidney failure, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease etc. According to the Global Atlas of Palliative Care, India is classified under high palliative care requirement regions of the world. Around 175-275 people per 1,00,000 need palliative care in India. However, there are several factors that are proving to be obstacles in the growth of palliative care in India such as population density, poverty, geographical diversity, restrictive policies regarding opioid prescription, workforce development at base level etc. At a time like this, an e-learning course is an ideal option since it expansively covers the knowledge and skills needed to deliver the highest quality care to patients nearing the end of their lives. Narotam Sekhsaria Foundation will be offering scholarships for interns, post graduate medical school students and medicos working o palliative care with NGO’s etc.

Speaking about the launch of the digital course, Dr. Monique Kamat – CEO, Narotam Sekhsaria Foundation said, “One of the major areas of intervention for Narotam Sekhsaria Foundation, since 2002, has been training, capacity building and infrastructure development in cancer care. Also, considering that availability of medical practitioners in the field of palliative care is the biggest limitation, our foundation has decided to work towards creating a pool of resources that are scientifically trained in the field of palliative care. Dedicated team of medicos including Dr. Himanshu Gupte and Dr. Dinesh Jagiasi works towards translating the founder’s vision into reality by working on different aspects on cancer care. Our aim is to reach out to the remotest of regions within India through this e-learning course which includes tier 2, tier 3 regions and even areas like North East where commuting physically to training centers or even availability of training centers could be a challenge.”

Mr. Prashant Mishra, Managing Director, BMJ India & South Asia said, “BMJ has always contributed positively to areas where there is a perceived healthcare gap – we have been doing so in the area of diabetes, chronic kidney disease and now palliative care – through the launch of education courses. We firmly believe that these courses are essential in helping doctors and healthcare professionals acquire skills to provide quality palliative care to their patients. We are hopeful healthcare professionals will enroll in this course and undertake this opportunity to further build their skills.”India currently holds 67th rank in ‘quality of death index’ out of 80, with poor physician and public awareness about palliative care and end of life care, as per a 2015 report by Lien Foundation. The report also points out that the overall palliative care service provision is poor except for the state of Kerala.

About Narotam Sekhsaria FoundationEstablished in 2002 by Mr. Narotam Sekhsaria, the founder of Gujarat Ambuja Cement Ltd, NSF has established a successful track record of identifying and supporting meritorious developmental enterprises across diverse domains including health, education and livelihood. NSF empowers not-for-profit organizations and social entrepreneurs to make a positive, lasting and sustainable impact on society.