New Delhi: Every year, April 7 is marked as World Health Day by World Health Organization (WHO) to raise awareness about health issues and ensure health and healthcare facilities are accessible to everyone, everywhere in the world. To mark the day and help understand India’s roadmap in achieving Health For All, team Banega Swasth India speaks with Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Executive Chairperson, Biocon & Biocon Biologics. Here’s what we discussed:
NDTV: What are some of the key findings and recommendations in charting the roadmap for universal healthcare in India?
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw: One thing we have realised over the years is that we have to have a bottom to top approach. It cannot be the top to down approach. With this method, we have learned a lot. I think we have realised what really are the pain points for the poor patients in the country. We have also realised the pain points of average citizens. The need of the hour is to look at how do we fix these things. So, for example, we know that the biggest pain point for a village patient has always been having absolutely zero access to any decent healthcare facility. So, using technology we need to fix this gap and make sure the person in primary healthcare system has access to the technology and is well-trained. Pandemic was the big eye opener. We had a very successful vaccination drive, testing, awareness strategy and all of that has really helped us formulate strategies in building a stronger healthcare system. What we now need is to focus on providing health equity to the poorest of the poor.
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NDTV: How prepared is India in dealing with future pandemics. Are there any key areas which our country should focus on?
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw: We have done a very good job during COVID-19 pandemic. If you look at our primary healthcare centres, they were absolutely brilliant in terms of testing, vaccination and creating pandemic awareness. To have this kind of reach and network in a country as large as India, is extremely commendable. We are a country which is in a state of preparedness, you can see that even in the recent times. Today, we are seeing a little surge in COVID-19 cases is because we have constant surveillance in the country going on. COVID-19 pandemic has also helped educate us in building good surveillance strategies and rapid response. What we have done in the pandemic is enormous and we have reaped tonnes of benefits thanks to the kind of policies, the kinds of efforts, and the huge network we have created, whether it is in terms of our doctors, nurses, ASHA workers, paramedics, other associated staff. I think the efforts that we have made are tremendous.
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NDTV: What are some of the important achievements in the healthcare sector in the last 75 years?
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw: Our whole TB programme is something that is worth talking about. India has done a lot in reducing the burden of TB from the country. Over the years, access to potable water, sanitation has improved, which has led to the reduction in the disease burden. It is a long journey, but at least we have started, and it will make a big difference in reducing infectious disease over the years. In terms of other diseases as well, India has made huge efforts, for example in dealing with cancer. Along with all this, I think the kind of work India has done in dealing with HIV and Malaria is also worth noticing. Immunisation has been the heart of fighting these infectious diseases and it has helped our country take the lead.
NDTV: What are some of the major challenges facing the healthcare sector today?
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw: It is very obvious that we have a huge human resource deficit. There is a shortage of million doctors, nurses, several other million technicians and paramedics in our country. So, it is very challenging for a country like ours to bridge this gap. A lot of discussion and policies have happened in the past that talk about the need to focus on these areas, but the need of the hour is to look at how do we get more and more medical seats filled up. Secondly, we need to train our nurses more, as they are capable of doing much more than what they are currently doing. We graduate around 50,000 MBBS doctors every year, but their knowledge is very basic.
We should look at training these graduates with an additional specialised course in areas like diabetes, neurology, oncology. We need to look forward and rebuild our curriculum. Technology has a huge role to play. I want to suggest that we should be looking at embedding the use of technology in our curriculums. Lastly, we need to ramp up our game in quality of care. We need to see how can we ensure that any hospital and clinic that is delivering healthcare has the highest level of quality.
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NDTV: We are gearing up to celebrate Health Day on April 7 and this year the theme is Health For All, if you had a chance to be the Health Minister of India, what are some the key areas you will priortise and address.
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw: It is not just about the one thing that one can do as an individual to bring in the change. Given the challenges we have in terms of Human Resources, infrastructure, and the huge disease burden – I think, technology has a huge role to play in bridging many of these deficits and delivering quality healthcare and healthcare equity. For now, we should just focus on building a stronger foundation for National Digital Healthcare Mission.
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.