Dr Kamalesh Sarkar, Director, ICMR-NIOH Ahmeabad

Director's Desk

The Indian Council of Medical Research-National Institute of Occupational Health (ICMR-NIOH) has been working for many years towards improving the management of occupational health risks in India. ICMR-NIOH is an occupational health research institute funded by the Government of India that is responsible for helping the national policy makers to develop the most suitable and effective policies for eliminating and reducing cases of serious work-related ill health and disease. The ultimate goal of ICMR-NIOH’s work is to reduce the burden of the occupational diseases that have the greatest negative impact on both public health and the productivity of the economy in India. To achieve this goal, ICMR-NIOH undertakes and oversees multidisciplinary research aimed at developing the most effective technologies and programmes for controlling workers’ exposure to health hazards. Our research enables us to provide the national policy makers, such as the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Ministry of Labour and Employment, with expert advice on the most effective ways of controlling occupational diseases in India. The aim is to help the Government of India to make the most appropriate decisions when developing the national policies for improving occupational health in the country. Currently, the main priorities for our research and our work in developing control technologies are focused on preventing respiratory diseases caused by exposure to harmful dust at work. We also aim to conduct research and develop ways of preventing and controlling other occupational diseases. These include heavy metal poisoning, pesticide poisoning, noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) and musculoskeletal disorders in various industries. Another important aspect of our work is developing education programmes for training the country’s doctors and other medical professionals on occupational healthcare. The idea is to boost the doctors’ knowledge of the causes of common work-related diseases in India. This will help to ensure that doctors in Preventing work related disease.
Recently ICMR-NIOH has identified a lung protein (CC-16) that may be used as a screening tool for early detection of silicosis among silica dust exposed workers, if there are screened periodically/annually. The institute has also developed a low cost serum CC-16 detection kit in collaboration with ICMR-NIV (Mumbai Unit). It is hoped that primary health care workers would be able to screen & thereby detect silicosis at its early stage among local vulnerable unorganized workers, using this kit. Suitable legislation is required towards this. Early detection has the dual advantage of prevention/control of both silicosis as well as its co-morbid condition, silico-tuberculosis. Considering the huge burden of tuberculosis in India, it is understood that unless silicosis is controlled, TB control is difficult in India. The institute has also developed a transdermal patch for detection of high lead level from body sweat among lead industry workers.
In response to public health emergency due to COVID-19, ICMR-NIOH has established a COVID-19 testing laboratory on urgent basis to support Govt. of Gujarat, which is functioning 24 hr. daily for 7 days in a week. We are also identified as a regional depot for distribution of SARS-CoV-2 test kits for the entire state of Gujarat. We are also preparing for a district-wise survey to assess the existence & magnitude of problem of COVID-19 infection in district population in Gujarat.
Lastly, I wish to request everyone for providing useful suggestion and constructive criticism that would help us to improve our output leading to required policy formulation for protecting lives, promoting health & preventing diseases of workers, who are directly linked with country’s productivity and economy.