Need for Public Health Act and Regulations: Ensuring Citizens Rights for Positive Health Outcomes
Dr. Sunil Kaul, the ANT, Assam, and Mr. Prasanth K. Subrahmanian, NHSRC, New Delhi
The importance of a need for a Public Health Act and Regulations in India was perhaps never felt as intensely as when COVID-19 pandemic broke out in 2019 which is still sweeping across the globe causing much human suffering, fear and death. In the midst of such a situation, India was forced to turn to its 123-year-old The Epidemic Diseases Act 1897 (EDA, 1897) with a hope that it would help in preventing the spread of the disease and to protect life. The Act, however, was found to be inadequate to be implemented within the context of the current social, political economic and technological systems that has changed over the century to manage the level of emergency and human suffering caused by COVID-19 pandemic. Hence The Disaster Management Act 2005 (DMA, 2005) was also invoked to fill in the gaps and manage the situation of pandemic to protect life. This article aims at articulating the need for a Public Health Act and Regulations for maintenance of citizens’ health during normal times as well as to do so efficiently and effectively during health emergencies – outbreak of disease, epidemic or pandemic situations from a rights perspective. The paper analyses the contents of EDA 1897 and the DMA 2005 in detail vis-à-vis the content of The Public Health (Prevention, Control and Management of Epidemics, Bio-Terrorism and Disasters) Bill, 2017 from a rights perspective. A case analysis of The Assam Public Health Act 2010 which is Rights-based Act is also presented in the paper. The study recommends two possibilities: either a) to enact a new Public Health Act or b) to pass The Public Health (Prevention, Control and Management of Epidemics, Bio-Terrorism and Disasters) Bill, 2017 with inclusion of the recommendations which are given in this paper especially from a rights perspective so that citizens enjoy positive health and well-being without fear, panic or feeling threatened especially during situations of health emergencies.
Public Health Act, Health Emergency, Disaster, Rights Based Approach, Citizens, Positive Health Outcomes.