The high mortality among the British and Indian troops operating in India attracted the attention of British Parliament which set up a Royal Commission in 1860 to visit India. The commission, realizing that the state of health of civilian population was a danger to the troops made recommendations for the improvement of health and sanitary conditions of the country. Consequently, sanitary commissioners were appointed in three major provinces-Bengal, Madras and Bombay. Following on the trend the first chair of Professor of Hygiene was established in the Calcutta Medical College in 1865.

The devastating epidemic of plague in 1896 led to the establishment of Indian Plague Commission. This was followed by gradual awakening to the idea of health, sanitation and prevention of disease. It was resolved that the Medical Officers of Health should have a diploma in public health as a special qualification to discharge their duties successfully. But owing to lack of training facilities in the country, Indian physicians were required to go to London for post-graduate studies in public health. Responding to the growing demand, and taking note of  the report of Plague Commission, Calcutta University decided to initiate the Diploma in Public Health. Dr TN Majumdar became the first Indian Health Officer of Calcutta Corporation, who acquired DPH of Calcutta University.

Sir Leonard Rogers, in 1914, to build up training capacity, proposed that a School of Tropical Medicine be established in Calcutta and another Institute of Hygiene in Bombay. The Governments of India and Bengal with the aid from charities established the School of Tropical Medicine in Calcutta in 1920. The demand for training was partially met by creating a professorship of Hygiene and starting a course of Diploma in Public Health. Sir John Megaw, Director, School of Tropical Medicine, Calcutta, however expressed difficulties in continuing with the DPH training and hoped that a separate Institute of Hygiene would soon be built.

Major General JD Graham, Public Health Commissioner to Government of India, in 1925, made a strong plea for expanding the facilities for specialist public health training in India. Dr. W S Carter on behalf of Rockefeller Foundation offered assistance to build and equip an Institute of Hygiene. The offer was accepted and All India Institute of Hygiene & Public Health was formally opened on 30th December 1932 by John Anderson, Governor of Bengal with Lt. Col. A D Stewart as its first Director.

Early Years

The Institute started with four sections – Public Health Administration, Malariology & Rural Hygiene, Vital Statistics & Epidemiology, and Bio-chemistry & Nutrition. Shortly, the fifth section of Maternity & Child Welfare was added with the help of Countess of Dufferin Fund.  The year 1934 saw the establishment of the section of Sanitary Engineering. Post- World War reconstruction plans required immediate industrialization, focussing attention on health of industrial workers and in 1945 Industrial Hygiene was added as another section.

Increasing need of application of bio-metric methods in analysing data – both research and routine, required biostatics to be separated from Epidemiology and become a separate section.

During this period the Institute offered three courses – Diploma in Public Health (DPH) and Diploma in Maternity and Child Welfare (DMCW) for medical graduates and Diploma in Public Health and Hygiene (DPH & Hy) for medical licentiate.

Rural Practice Field

One of the fundamentals in the training of public health is the practical field experience of students both in the urban and rural settings. In the initial years, exposure to urban community was obtained through an arrangement with the corporation of Calcutta and urban Maternity and Child Welfare Centres. Limited rural experience was made available through M & C W centre set up at Lokenath and visit to Singur Health Centre. Singur Health Centre, which was jointly developed by Govt. Of Bengal, District Board, Hooghly and Rockefeller Foundation was acquired by the Institute in 1944.This centre was developed as a demonstration and research centre and a model of primary health centre. Bhore Committee included it in their Rural Health Development Plan. This unit is now designated as Rural Health Unit & Training Centre,  Singur.

Establishment of Blood Bank

While the World War II was on, the Govt of India decided to open at least one Blood Bank in each state. Consequently, the first blood bank was opened at the institute in 1941.The bio-engineering devices for filtration, cold storage and freeze drying of plasma were developed. The unit was transferred to Medical College, Calcutta in 1945.

Post War Development.

MCH project & Urban Health Centre

There was increasing awareness that shortage of trained manpower in Public Health was an impediment to the health of the people. Bhore committee after thorough evaluation of health situation recommended augmenting training facilities in the country. As a result of this, the number of seats for DPH was doubled, specialist courses established and short term refresher experiences set up. Among the university courses the MEPH was started in 1948, DIP Diet in 1949, DIH in 1951, and Diploma in Nutrition in 1953. Several short and refresher course on Laboratory Techniques, Maternal and Child Health, Nutrition, Public Health Engineering. Industrial Health and Biometric Technique were also started.

Another milestone in the progress of training in Public Health was in 1953 when Institute transcended its national horizon and crossed the national boundaries and became the accredited International Training Centre- the result of a cooperative effort between the Govt. of India on one hand and the WHO and UNICEF on the other. Thus the Urban Health Centre at Chetla was ushered in as an urban practice field and international training centre particularly for Maternity and Child Health Workers of south-east Asian countries.

Biochemistry and Nutrition

Role of diet in treatment of diseases was assuming important role but, very few hospitals in India had a dietician. To fill this gap Diploma in Dietetics course was started in 1949.

Similarly with increasing awareness of the importance of nutrition in public health programs, more and more states started establishing divisions of Nutrition in Public Health Departments. To meet the demand initially a three month course in Nutrition was set up in 1948. This was followed by launching of Diploma in nutrition course under Calcutta University in 1954.

Urban Practice Field.

Although municipal experience was available for the DPH students through Corporation of Calcutta , a need was felt for a service agency closely affiliated with the Institute, where  services   could be brought up to a demonstration standard. It was envisaged that such an agency would serve not only as a practice field for teaching and demonstrating to students the modern concepts of an integrated urban health service based on a family centred approach, but also provide a living laboratory for research in urban public health practice. The Urban Health Centre, the first urban health centre in India was opened in 1955.

Post- Independence Period

The department of Biochemistry and Nutrition was given the responsibility of monitoring the ICDS project and field trial of Iron fortified salt in prevention of anaemia in eastern part of the country.

Sanitary Engineering

The first training course for certificate of Public Health Engineering was started in 1947, followed by MEPH course in 1948.In 1971 a certificate course for water and sewage analysis was started.In1975 a certificate course in maintenance of hand pumps and rural sanitation was started.


Following its independent status in 1946/the section started giving training in basic and applied statistics to personnel working in fields of medical care and public health.

Industrial Health

Increased industrialization of the country with concomitant problems demanded services of physicians especially trained to combat those problems. The diverse resources available in the institute joined hands with ICMR and a three month certificate course in Industrial Health was initiated. The response to the course was encouraging and a university diploma course in Industrial Health was established.

Public Health Nursing

In order to meet the need of comprehensive health nursing services covering maternal and child health, school health and communicable disease, a certificate course in Public Health Nursing (CPHN) was introduced in 1953. With the changing trends in nursing services, another course of three month duration was initiated leading to a certificate in Public Health Nursing Supervision (CPHNS).

Health Education

Where ever health assessment of community was undertaken, it stood out prominently that people need to be educated health so that they may do such things as they can for improving their own health and that of the community. People also need to be educated to avail themselves of the health services offered by the state. To meet this need a certificate course in health education was initiated in 1956.Later to give administrative leadership to health education in the state health services, a full course of Diploma in Health Education was started. Besides regular courses following training courses were started by the Institute:

1970-Professional Training in Epidemiology

1974-Training Course in Multipurpose Health Workers

1976-Orientation Course in ICDS

1977– Training of Trainers in Community Health Workers Program

1977-Training of Port Health Workers

1978-Training of Railway Engineers in Water supply & Sanitation

1979– Training of Port Engineers in Water supply & Sanitation


  • The contribution of the Institute in Public Health Research has been highly impressive. A few of outstanding contributions are given below-
  • Epidemic Dropsy – The adulteration of mustard oil with Argemone mexicana seeds was established to be the cause of Epidemic Dropsy.
  • Cholera – El Tor serving as a carrier organism in the human gut to assume pathogenic role under suitable conditions was first postulated in the Institute.
  • Typhus – Investigation among troops stationed in Simla, Barrackpore and Palta demonstrated the role of T. deliensis as the vector.
  • Plague – The antigenic structure of Y. pestis cultured in casein hydrolysate medium paved the way to development of vaccine and anti-sera against plague.
  • Black Water Fever – Investigations of Black Water Fever established its links with Malaria.
  • Protein Hydrolysate – During famine in 1943 in Bengal, a hydrolysate of protein using pork and papain was prepared. It was fortified with glucose and vitamins to save many lives.
  • Health and Morbidity Surveys – The Institute developed and standardised methodology of integrated health, morbidity, environmental and socio-economic conditions of a community to assess the health status and measure changes over time.