Today is World Malaria Day.

Normally, I would have posted something on Malaria.

But today I think it important that we focus on fighting against COVID with all our might for the next few weeks to control situation. Lets try to follow all precautions and helps others whereever we can.

Unfortunately, our public health infrastructure is always under tremendous pressure & it happens often – be it a localized outbreak of Japanese Encephalitis in one district or Pandemic across country

COVID 2nd wave is reminding us on importance of strengthening public health sector urgently

Am not a public health expert, but I think if we can do below stuff better, we would be in better situation to fight diseases like COVID, Malaria & other infectious diseases

  • Need more medical professionals – doctors, nurses, Epidemiologist, entomologists & allied para-medical staff

When I was in class 12th in 2002 and was preparing for Pre Medical Test (which unfortunately I didn’t qualify), I used to wonder why India has such a less number of medical seats. We have one of the abysmal ratios for doctor to patients. Despite this, the number of medical colleges has not increased.

We need a lot of investment and expansion for medical education in India and also Government & other players in industry need to build a good career potential for people with expertise in entomology and epidemiology.

  • Enhance integration of professionals from other domains like Management, communication, Data science for public health topics

Public health aspects need not be only the domain of technical or medical knowledge. It is important that expertise is complimented with the expertise in management, communication & data science domains.

Most of the national programme for diseases elimination, though are strong in the technical expertise, but they lack severely in overall management, data management, communication and community connection. Professionals with expertise in those domains coming out from corporates can provide a lot of value to the health department to augment the execution better.

  • Strengthen infrastructure & supply chains

Below is the statement from World Health Organization highlights the importance of the supply chains and infrastructure 

“Much of the [world’s] burden of disease can be prevented or cured with known, affordable technologies. The problem is getting drugs, vaccines, information, and other forms of prevention, care or treatment—on time, reliably, in sufficient quantity and at reasonable cost—to those who need them.”

COVID-19 has exposed “deep-rooted vulnerabilities” in public health infrastructure & supply chain.

It is pertinent that sufficient investment is made in the medical infrastructure and allied sectors. It would be also important that we ensure that proper economic incentive for those investing.

  • Promote data enabled decision making

One of the biggest problems of Public health in India is that we have a lot of data sitting in files and in computers of our government health department. We lack analytics and proper predictive models from that data.

  • Reduce the bureaucracy with clear & simple regulations to promote innovation and enable private partnerships for execution

Medical, Pharma and Insecticide Industry are highly regulated in India with a plethora of regulations, guidelines and licenses. All this slows down the process to bring innovation and new technology to country. Complex guidelines and regulations also make future unpredictable.

India has been a slow in adaption of new technologies, especially when public procurement is involved.

  • Zero tolerance for corruption, system inefficiencies & unscientific rationale 

There must be absolute zero tolerance for corruption and system inefficiencies. These are the biggest scourges that destroy a lot of progress potential. The overall system is becoming more transparent with the involvement of digital technology; however, Governments really need to follow to ensure to weed out corruption and inefficiencies

Another biggest enemy of the public health is “Unscientific rationale and belief”. Some examples are Vaccine hesitancy, taking some unproven traditional medicine packaged as cure for a particular disease, believing on WhatsApp forwards about any miraculous cure.

  • Not show Disdain against profits

We have been a socialist nation for long and hence probably have hatred towards profit. We usually see this feeling becoming even stronger when it is related to public health.

We must understand reasonable profits are essential because of following reasons:Profits are to be reinvested in R&D for further development of newer innovation

  • Innovations are expensive, need to recoup the investment
  • Profits are to be reinvested in R&D for further development of newer innovation
  • Profits are invested to scale the production supply chain, which helps to make the products more affordable and accessible in the long term

Some models like differential pricing are really useful as it helps people who can’t afford to get access either Free or very low price and for those who can afford, they usually pay higher price.  

The problem of affordability can even be better solved by my next point on universal medical insurance

  • Universal Medical Insurance

In India, medical expense results in sudden destruction of savings and makes people vulnerable  

We must strive for 100% medical insurance. Ayush Bharat is a good start and it needs to further expand so that every Indian who doesn’t have a personal or corporate medical insurance is covered by Government backed health insurance.

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