Rewiring India’s healthcare ecosystem for wellness – Times of India

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Umang Vohra, Cipla’s MD and Global CEO
In most modern societies, we have primarily approached health from a curative lens, seeking help only when symptoms visibly impede our functioning, as opposed to putting in consistent effort to ensure our wellbeing. A recent report by ASSOCHAM indicates that the incidence of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in India is highest amongst those in the 26-59 age bracket, who are also the most active contributors and thereof, the backbone of India.
Additionally, the occurrence of mass communicable diseases further overwhelms an already pressurized healthcare system, as we have witnessed with COVID, rendering it unable to cope and manage a population as large as ours. The only sustainable way is to transition from an ‘illness’ to a ‘wellness’-oriented approach to health, which strives to improve people’s overall quality of life by safeguarding them from ill health and helping them manage diseases better.
Rise of the health-conscious consumer
We must acknowledge the shift we are seeing in people’s attitudes towards their health in India. The pandemic has made us more conscious of our lifestyle choices in pursuit of optimizing our health. This sentiment is quantified by a Mintel survey which states that roughly 50% of Indians took to consuming healthier food and exercising during the pandemic than prior.
This evolving consumer interest has been complemented by heightened activity in the health and wellness industry through the introduction of sophisticated fitness trackers, the launch of several immunity-boosting and nourishment-oriented products by small businesses and FMCG giants alike, and so on. The rise of gamification in healthcare has empowered us to have better control of our health outcomes by guiding us towards our fitness goals, providing us with real-time and simplified information on our health, enabling easy access to qualified practitioners and prompting us to adhere to their recommendations. Today, most organizations are also actively promoting wellness among their employees by introducing wellness policies like access to counsellors for mental health and nutrition, virtual yoga classes and more. As a community, we are increasingly gravitating towards concepts like holistic wellness, sound bathing, wellness retreats, etc. to nourish our bodies and minds.
Auroville in India is a good example of a township that is rooted in wellness through its focus on sustainable living and the cultural, environmental, social, and spiritual needs of people. However, while it is evident that there has been a definite shift, this has been limited to a niche audience. So how can we cascade the concept of good health and wellness across India?
Amplify awareness from the grassroots
First, we need to share the know-how on health management with communities through awareness programs and provide them with access to resources in order for them to adopt healthy lifestyles through periodic checkups, healthy ingredients and fitness related activities. For instance, the uptick we are seeing in specialized nutrition products must be made more accessible and affordable to people across the country.
Partnerships with key stakeholders
The Government’s progressive health programs like Ayushman Bharat, and the Fit India movement are exemplary initiatives propelling the wellness drive. It would be imperative for industry players to scout for opportunities that allow them to join forces with the Government for implementation of ambitious and large-scale programs. Their pool of innovative minds and solutions as well as their collective reach to end consumers can add meaningful heft to such efforts. The effective execution of Ayushman Bharat will cover nearly 40% of the most indigent and vulnerable population, giving them better access to treatments, improving health and productivity, and enhancing the overall quality of life.
Beyond this, it is crucial that we address the external root causes of chronic illnesses. Air pollution, for example, is a large contributor to respiratory illnesses like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)and asthma. Climate positive action needs to be the responsibility of all stakeholders, right from large corporations to individuals must collaborate to reduce pollution.
Augment the ecosystem thinking
Lastly, it is crucial to nurture our nation’s thinkers and innovators to come up with ingenious solutions and models of scaling up preventative care and early diagnosis. Favourable policies, incentives and launchpads will help bring their ideas to fruition and considerably contribute to upping the wellness thrust, which we are in fact already seeing through the boom in health tech startups.
I believe India is at a stage where there is both readiness and the wherewithal to rewire our healthcare ecosystem on the principles of wellness. The collective momentum to see this through will be a key driver in bringing about this revolution. Afterall, a state of wellbeing is not just the ability to survive, but the power to thrive – as individuals, as a community and a nation.
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Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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