From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Burden of Non-communicable diseases
Mains level : India's progress in healthcare progress, NCD challenges and potential of AI
What’s the news?
- India, with its emerging leadership in global issues, faces the challenge of rising NCDs, including diabetes and heart diseases. The healthcare industry calls for collaboration to address this crisis, highlighting India’s progress in healthcare, its role as a Medical Value Travel hub, and its potential in AI-driven healthcare innovations.
- In recent years, India has emerged as a prominent voice on the global stage, leading the way in critical areas such as climate change, electrification, manufacturing, and space exploration. India’s achievements include successfully landing a mission near the moon’s south pole and a successful G-20 presidency. However, as India aims to become a global leader, it must confront a looming health crisis of NCDs.
What are Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs)?
- NCDs are also known as chronic diseases, which are not caused by infectious agents and are not transmissible from person to person.
- NCDs are long-lasting and progress slowly, typically taking years to manifest symptoms.
- Examples of NCDs include cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes.
- These diseases are often caused by modifiable risk factors such as an unhealthy diet, a lack of physical activity, tobacco and alcohol use, and environmental factors.
- NCDs are a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide, accounting for around 70% of all deaths.
India’s NCD challenge
- Diabetes and Hypertension Prevalence: India is facing a high prevalence of NCDs, particularly diabetes and hypertension, which affect millions of people.
- Youth Health Issues: The burden of NCDs is increasingly affecting India’s youth, leading to heart attacks, cancer, respiratory problems, depression, and more.
- Economic Consequences: If unchecked, India’s NCD burden could lead to an economic cost of nearly $4 trillion by 2030. This poses a significant roadblock to India’s development and is compared to an age tax on the country’s demographic dividend.
India’s healthcare progress
- Improved Health Metrics: India has witnessed notable improvements in key health metrics.
- Infant Mortality: India has witnessed a remarkable improvement in infant mortality rates, which have decreased by four times from previous levels.
- Maternal Mortality: Maternal mortality rates have shown remarkable progress as well, decreasing by seven times from earlier rates.
- Average Life Expectancy: The average life expectancy of an Indian has increased by nearly 30%, rising from 55 years to over 70 years, reflecting the overall improvement in healthcare and quality of life in the country.
- World-Class Healthcare Infrastructure: India is described as having world-class healthcare infrastructure. Investments have been made in modern hospitals, clinics, and medical facilities to provide high-quality healthcare services.
- Clinical Excellence: India is noted for its pool of highly skilled clinical talent. These healthcare professionals are capable of delivering best-in-class clinical outcomes and providing healthcare services at a scale and cost that are favorable compared to the global average.
India as a Medical Value Travel (MVT) hub
- Global MVT Hub: India has emerged as a prominent global destination for MVT, attracting patients from around the world, particularly in specialized medical fields such as oncology, orthopedics, and robotic surgery.
- Advanced Medical Technology: India has invested in state-of-the-art medical technology and facilities, including the introduction of proton beam therapy for cancer treatment, positioning itself as a regional leader in cancer care.
- Highly Skilled Healthcare Professionals: India has a highly skilled and trained workforce of healthcare professionals known for their expertise in complex procedures, including joint replacements, spinal surgeries, and robotic-assisted surgeries.
- Minimally Invasive Techniques: Many medical procedures in India are conducted using minimally invasive techniques, attracting patients seeking precise and less invasive treatments.
- Cost-Effective Care: India offers cost-effective healthcare services, making it an attractive destination for patients seeking high-quality medical care at competitive prices.
- Growth Potential: India’s MVT sector has significant growth potential, capable of creating employment opportunities and contributing to foreign exchange earnings.
India’s potential for harnessing Artificial Intelligence (AI) to transform the healthcare sector
- AI in Healthcare Transformation: AI is rapidly reshaping healthcare worldwide, and India is poised to play a leading role in this transformation. India has a wealth of talented data scientists, engineers, and healthcare professionals capable of driving innovation in AI-driven healthcare solutions.
- Diagnostic Advancements: AI can significantly impact diagnostics by enhancing accuracy and efficiency in medical diagnoses. AI-powered tools can lead to faster treatment decisions and improved patient outcomes. Moreover, AI can aid in predicting disease outbreaks, analyzing healthcare data, optimizing treatment plans, expediting healthcare procedures, and revolutionizing drug discovery.
- India’s Progress in AI: India has already made strides in the application of AI in healthcare. However, to maintain and strengthen its leadership position, India must continue to invest in research and development, encourage collaborations between academia and industry, and create an ecosystem that fosters innovation.
- Economic Potential: The AI expenditure in the country is expected to reach $11.78 billion by 2025 and could contribute $1 trillion to India’s economy by 2035.
- AI-Driven Healthcare Transformation: India should fully embrace the transformative potential of AI in healthcare. This involves integrating AI-powered solutions for diagnostics, treatment optimization, and healthcare procedures.
- Investment in R&D: India should continue and increase investment in research and development to drive healthcare innovation. Funding and supporting research initiatives will be crucial for advancements in healthcare technology.
- Collaboration Between Academia and Industry: Strengthening partnerships between academic institutions and the healthcare industry is essential. These collaborations can expedite the application of research findings to practical healthcare solutions.
- Nurturing an Innovation Ecosystem: India should create an ecosystem conducive to healthcare innovation. This includes supporting healthcare startups, offering incentives for innovation, and facilitating the growth of healthcare technology companies.
- Economic Potential of AI: Recognizing the economic potential of AI in healthcare, India should actively invest in AI-driven healthcare solutions. The expected growth in AI expenditure presents an opportunity to contribute significantly to the country’s economy.
- Community Health Focus: Prioritizing community health is essential. Initiatives aimed at improving public health, creating awareness about preventive measures, and addressing healthcare disparities should be emphasized.
- Public-Private Collaboration: Collaboration between the public and private sectors is critical. Joint efforts can lead to infrastructure development, the promotion of medical tourism, and the establishment of international healthcare accreditation bodies.
- Leadership in NCD Prevention: India should take a leading role in addressing non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Comprehensive strategies, including prevention, early detection, and effective management, should be at the forefront of healthcare efforts.
- India stands at a critical juncture in its healthcare journey. By reimagining its healthcare model, India can position itself as a global leader in medical value travel, a powerhouse in AI-driven healthcare solutions, and a trailblazer in combating NCDs. With concerted efforts and a commitment to excellence, India can forge a healthier and more prosperous future for generations to come, truly realizing its destiny as a global leader.