New Delhi: To mark World Health Day on April 7 with the theme Health For All, team Banega Swasth India speaks with Actor and Climate Warrior Bhumi Pednekar, who has also recently become the National Advocate for United Nations Development Programme for Sustainable Development Goals in India. Ms Pednekar talks about India’s achievements in health over the years, challenges on the road ahead to achieve Sustainable Development Goals and the goal of providing health for all. Here’s what we discussed:
NDTV: Tell us about the role you will play as the first National Advocate for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) India? What does the role entail?
Bhumi Pednekar: I am extremely honoured and I am full of gratitude. I feel very motivated and excited to take on the role of being the first national advocate for Sustainable Development Goals in India. I feel, as individuals, as people who have voice, and as leaders, we all have tried doing our bit to support the SDGs but I feel very fortunate that I have had this collaboration with United Nations Development Programme. I really hope that through my reach and the love I have received over the years, through the credibility I have built and through my voice, I can reach out to people far and wide and reach out to as many people as possible who need support. As it is only together that we can build a world that is sustainable, economically, socially and environmentally.
NDTV: Given we are just 7 years away from 2030 deadline to achieve all Sustainable Development Goals, how far is India from achieving these goals?
Bhumi Pednekar: I feel that India is a climate positive country. Our leaders have been speaking about the climate crisis, we have made some strong climate policies. But is it enough? No, the problem is so large that we really can’t quantify. When we think of 17 SDGs and 169 targets, they all are achievable, but we need to know that the target is 2030 and it is right here. We started in 2016, since the inception of SDGs, we have seen a lot of progress, we have seen many goals becoming pivotal talking points globally, we have seen change in individual behaviour, change in economic policies and reforms. But as an individual, who is extremely scared about the future, future of the family, humanity and my loved ones, I feel like that the problem is that the solution doesn’t just lie in world leaders coming together or in policies, it is also about awareness, about individuals knowing that we are living in times where the planet is on a tipping point. What we really need is an equal world for all genders, generations, species that coexist with us. We need future generations to have access to natural clean resources, water, clean energy, nutritious food, healthcare. We need all this for the most vulnerable communities as well. It is a long journey ahead, but I am extremely motivated by the work that has been done so far.
NDTV: India has made significant progress in some of the areas like drop in maternal and child mortality, improvement in number of children being breastfed, universal immunisation coverage has improved, which are the areas where we are currently lagging and need to prioritise?
Bhumi Pednekar: What is amazing is the fact that even though India is a very large country with a huge population, it has been one of the countries, which has seen one of the most successful vaccination drives, especially for infants. I feel like our medical sector is really celebrated globally. When we think of India, we think of the strength of our doctors and medical centres. But the question is – is it really reaching all the communities? I don’t think so. And the reason is that we are such a huge country. It goes beyond infrastructure for me, I have literally seen healthcare being stigmatised to a great extent. Especially when it comes to marginalised genders, community, women and children. If you just think of basic hygiene, health, period health, health of pregnant women, and the general women health, I feel there is so much of bias. And it is very heartbreaking. We always feel that the male of the family deserves the access to healthcare. For me, I personally want to create equality in healthcare system. We need a lot more organisations, institutions, individuals coming together to strengthen our healthcare system. For example, if someone works under you who doesn’t have access to healthcare that you have, go and take that extra step, so that they have access to basic healthcare and they know that healthcare is their basic right. We can see a lot of changes happening, but we need larger section of individuals coming together to make a change.
NDTV: If you got a chance to become India’s health minister then what are some of the measures or policy decisions you will try and implement first.
Bhumi Pednekar: The first and foremost thing, which I would want to do is to help create enough units with intensive care implemented in our country as I feel we need to be prepared for more and more outbreaks, especially given the climate crisis we are already in. I want to also make sure our medical system is as empowered and as strong as possible. I want to encourage as many people as possible to get into medical services. Also, would like to urge entrepreneurs and individuals to invest in green technologies that support in having stronger medical system. I would also encourage inventors to come up with solutions through technology and science that can also help make our medical system stronger. And lastly, I will make sure that every few kilometres there is some basic access to healthcare facility in our country for individuals.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.