A call for preventive health care and equity - Hindustan Times
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A call for preventive health care and equity

Apr 07, 2024 06:00 AM IST

This article is authored by Dr. Swati Piramal, vice chairperson, Piramal Group.

India's health care sector is experiencing a period of remarkable growth. With the global healthcare sector valued at $10 trillion, India's contribution stands at approximately $372 billion. In the past few years, the health care industry demonstrated remarkable resilience in the face of challenges and a strong drive for innovation. India's digital transformation has been instrumental in fast-tracking access to quality health care through the government’s flagship Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission, launched five years ago. The focus on health care digitisation and infrastructure is one aspect that has led to improvements in health care provision and delivery.

Health care(HT file photo) PREMIUM
Health care(HT file photo)

However, to continue with the progress and achieve a healthier India for all, a critical shift is necessary. The focus must move beyond solely curative measures towards prioritising preventive health care and dismantling the entrenched disparities that leave a significant portion of the population underserved.

According to a report by the World Economic Forum, India is projected to face a substantial financial burden of $4.58 trillion from 2012 to 2030 due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and mental health issues. The incidence of these diseases is rising at a faster rate in India, affecting a significant number of young individuals. Statistics indicate that at least one in three Indians is pre-diabetic, two in three are pre-hypertensive, and one in ten suffer from depression. These figures underscore the urgent need for preventive healthcare solutions to address the escalating NCD crisis in India. Prevention isn't just preferable to treatment; it serves as the cornerstone for fostering a healthier society and to address persistent disparities in health outcomes, a multi-pronged strategy focused on preventive health care and achieving measurable health equity is essential.

Preventive health care initiatives play a pivotal role in fostering healthier communities, reducing the burden on healthcare systems, and especially to improve the health indices at the bottom of the pyramid like tribal areas. Supplementing traditional facilities with innovative approaches such as mobile clinics and telemedicine helps bridge geographical gaps and improve patient outcomes. Moreover, investing in prevention through strengthened immunisation programmes for children, promoting maternal healthcare, and offering subsidised screenings enables early detection of diseases and timely interventions.

By ensuring the availability of primary care facilities staffed with well-trained health care professionals across all regions, particularly in remote areas where access is limited, we can effectively expand healthcare access. Training doctors to be healthcare leaders goes beyond just imparting medical knowledge and skills. It involves instilling qualities such as empathy, communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving abilities. Moreover, integrating the ethos of ‘sewa bhav’, or compassionate service, into medical training emphasises the importance of putting patients' well-being at the forefront of healthcare practice. This holistic approach not only saves lives but also promotes overall well-being and fosters sustainable health care delivery.

Education enables proactive healthcare cultures by equipping communities with comprehensive knowledge about hygiene, nutrition, and disease prevention. This empowerment helps individuals to make informed decisions, creating healthier lifestyles and reducing disease burden. Sustainable health care equity requires a robust medical workforce driven by continuous innovation, necessitating strategic investments in medical education and research. Cutting-edge facilities and collaborative environments attract top talent to medicine, while partnerships between research institutions and medical colleges propel progress in medical science. Leveraging the digital revolution, health care delivery is transformed, particularly in reaching the last mile. Integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning enhances early diagnosis and provides treatment plans to individual needs, empowering patients to monitor their own advancements. This convergence of digital and physical realms shapes a more efficient and impactful health care model, positioning nations to bridge healthcare gaps domestically and globally. For example, Digital Bharat Collaborative (part of Piramal Foundation), operates across eight states, bringing together multi-sectoral organisations and state governments to improve public services' availability, accessibility, and quality through technology.

As India stands on the brink of a transformative period in its health care journey, collaborative efforts between the public and private sectors, coupled with active community engagement, are imperative to ensure universal access to quality healthcare services. While facing public health challenges common to developing nations, India must strive to develop innovative, long-term, and scalable solutions that will not only address immediate needs but also bolster socio-economic progress in the years ahead.

This article is authored by Dr. Swati Piramal, vice chairperson, Piramal Group.

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