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India needs a sustainable healthcare system post pandemic too: AIIMS director 

Live Mint , Oct 23, 2020

To have a pandemic-resistant world, India needs to invest heavily in health infrastructure, Dr. Randeep Guleria, Director, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) said at a virtual event organized by Public Affairs Forum of India(PAFI) on Friday.

Speaking about One Health, Guleria said India needs to invest in it. "Unless we look at the health in holistic terms, we won’t be able to prevent outbreaks," he added imparting that we must aggressively work on the concept of One Health. As described by the World Health Organisation (WHO), One Health is a collaborative effort of multiple disciplines working locally, nationally, and globally to attain optimal health for people, animals and our environment.

"If we need to have a pandemic-resistant world, we need to have a system which is sustainable and works even when the pandemic is over," said Guleria.

Surveillance, containment and collaboration are also crucial to create a pandemic-resistant world, said Guleria. "All countries have to come together to create a robust surveillance system with proactive involvement and need to invest considerably to improve the global health infrastructure. Innovation is another area that is important in the upscaling of healthcare infrastructure. There are many opportunities as far as telehealth and technology is concerned but we are slow at adopting them in healthcare sector," he added.

“There has to be a lot of data sharing and planning for prevention of future outbreaks. We should look at the central surveillance team globally which could look at the data coming from all parts of the world. Data sharing within the country is also important to fill the gaps in the policies," said the AIIMS director, highlighting the role of data sharing.

Covid-19 has posed challenges and created opportunities for healthcare system. Several healthcare experts discussed the roadmap and strategies on how the industry can work with stakeholders - government, health agencies and multilateral institutions- in building a pandemic-resistant world at PAFI’s event.

“The first step towards a pandemic-resistant world is the development of a sustainable and affordable healthcare system. Covid-19 has exposed that across countries, the universal health coverage systems are fragile and underfunded," Dr Naresh Trehan, Chairman and Managing Director, Medanta hospital said.

Trehan emphasized on the importance of building infrastructure to decrease the existing disease burden. “We, along with the world, need an early warning system to ensure that the next pandemic does not bring us down on our knees. Also, the quality of data and an ability to analyse it has to be cultivated. Collaborative efforts within the government and between the government and the private sector is the need of the hour," he said.

For this pandemic experience to be translated into something meaningful, Trehan pointed out that the WHO needs to be more robust and responsible and the need for China to be more transparent. "India must also capitalize on its soft power of knowledge, skills and technology to create universally applicable solutions," Trehan said at the event.

Sangita Reddy, Managing Director, Apollo Hospital and President, FICCI pointed out that connect between the centre, state and districts is also evident which needs greater attention and streamlining."

Speaking about the need for a better connect among the center, states and districts, Sangita Reddy, Managing Director, Apollo Hospital and President, FICCI, said it needs greater attention and streamlining.

Shubhashis Gangopadhyay, Research Director, India Development Foundation (IDF) and Dean, Indian School of Public Policy said that healthcare is not just a sector, but should be viewed as the fundamental backbone of any economy.

“Investment in healthcare would reduce the demand on healthcare services and also increase productivity of the nation. Additionally, the healthcare sector is potentially the biggest employer in the country and may aid in solving the unemployment issues. Businesses with a high ES rating have been more resilient to this pandemic," said Gangopadhyay. He recommended that such businesses should be rewarded/incentivised by the government to operate in such a manner. “A healthy economy will improve productivity. Health sector is the largest employer in a broader sense. There is need for more research in health economics. It is crucial to move from a data-rich to a data-intelligent country. Use of data in policy making, strategizing and planning is needed," he said.