Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Healthcare in India & Pandemic

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations

Mains level : Paper 2- Lessons to improve healthcare system

Pandemic has been ravaging the world in a way few could have imagined. It highlighted the flaws in our healthcare system. However, it also offers several important lessons for tackling future pandemics and healthcare emergencies.

Where we stand after 1 year of pandemic

  • About a year after the first cases were reported, we are in a different position than at the start.
  • Doctors, public health specialists and policymakers have a better sense of the interventions that are required.
  • Many treatments initially proposed, based on expert experience, have been tested and removed from management strategies even as modified protocols have improved survival rates.
  • Vaccines have moved even faster than drugs with  nearly 40 of them undergoing clinical trials, a dozen of which are at the phase three stage, and at least one has been licensed post-phase three trials under conditional emergency use authorisation (EUA).
  • This highlights the importance of science, technology, multilateral partnerships such as the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the WHO.
  • This highlights the importance of science, technology, multilateral partnerships such as the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the WHO.

Takeaways from our response to pandemic

1) Increase investment on health services

  • The countries which handled the pandemic best (Thailand and Vietnam) have well-functioning health systems designed to deliver primary healthcare services.
  • These countries also have strong preventive and promotive health services as well as a dedicated public health workforce.
  • Their governments had made sustained investments in health over decades.
  • In contrast, countries which focused mainly on hospital centric medical systems struggled.

2) Important role played by health workers

  • The role of community health workers in recognising, referring and motivating individuals for therapy was remarkable.
  • Healthcare workers, particularly those at the frontline, such as the accredited social health activists (ASHA) who visited hundreds of households repeatedly during the pandemic.
  •  If we are to build back better, we need to give them better recognition, salaries and career progression.

3) Increase community participation

  • Third, community trust and participation is essential for implementation of non-pharmacological interventions.
  • Dharavi in Mumbai is an example of the difference community participation can make.

4) Importance of data

  • Outside of the immediate response, the need for timely and quality data in a health information system was recognised again during the pandemic.
  • Without real time data on testing, disease surveillance and other outcomes, tailored responses are near impossible.
  • The solutions that have brought us hope have come from long-term private or public investments in scientific research and developments.

Conclusion

Future readiness needs to start now, and we have the resources and knowledge to do this — all we need is commitment and that is outlined in the recent National Health Policy 2017 and reiterated in the report of the Fifteenth Finance Commission, which for the first time has a dedicated chapter on health.

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