A new year has begun, there is new hope, and the fight against the pandemic has certainly become a lot stronger with several vaccines receiving emergency approval. A big realization has been that COVID-19 is more than a public health problem, it is a major humanitarian crisis, calling for collective and collaborative efforts from all.
Amongst the important lessons that mankind learnt in combating COVID-19 have been that the subject of health has to be a priority and to fight disease, it will be partnerships that will give us an advantage. This is turn accentuates an acute need to forge ground-breaking partnerships including PPPs to harness the best of both–the private and the public sector capabilities.
Secondly, the crisis highlighted the need for bigger investments to enhance healthcare infrastructure across the board, including a greater thrust on digital health which can be a force multiplier to ramp up access to high quality care for all.
At the third place, is the need for India to become wholly self-reliant in manufacturing medical devices and equipment, which are critical to delivering advanced medical care. At present, India continues to be import-dependent with almost 69 percent of its total requirements being met through imports. Also, with regard to high-end medical devices, hospital and surgical equipment, import dependency is almost 90 percent. A big step that India began amidst the pandemic was to become Atmanirbhar and therefore, a concerted impetus to encourage investments into indigenous manufacturing of medical devices and equipment must be an imperative.
Globally, healthcare has been an engine for job creation and it is known to be a sunrise sector. India with over 65 percent of its population being under the age of 35 years must harness the opportunity to build skilled human health resources to address the needs in the country and the world over. It is important to note that the private health sector in India did not resort to layoffs despite the financial challenges posed by the pandemic.
The World Health Organization perceives health to be a shared responsibility and that is a definitive. Responsibility for health should be a collaborative effort among individuals and the societies in which they live. Individuals should care for their own health, help to pay for their own healthcare, and societies should promote health and develop smart plans to finance the costs of healthcare.
In India, the private health sector serves more than 70 percent of the country’s medical needs.
Over the last seven years and particularly in joining forces to manage the outbreak, NATHEALTH–the Healthcare Federation of India has been advocating and working alongside the Central and State governments to assist the country in achieving the vision of Arogya Bharat. The industry body’s goal is to be the credible voice for the private healthcare sector as it uniquely has representation from providers, diagnostic labs, MedTech, education, and research organizations, among others.
In sum, 2021 needs to be the stepping-stone for what we want to achieve in the forthcoming decade to make India truly Atmanirbhar in healthcare. Covid-19 placed even the best resourced health systems in the western world under acute stress, and the fault lines were visible to all. Therefore, India must focus on ramping up its capabilities to manage other infectious diseases alongside, gearing up to address the rising incidence of non-communicable diseases, which in reality is a much bigger threat to India and humanity at large.
Our tomorrow will be shaped by our actions today and we certainly must not let the lessons learnt from the pandemic, to be forgotten or wasted. Let’s set our expectations high and chart a fresh course to a healthier and happier world.