As the world changes calendars after a grim, tumultuous year, Indians have been greeted with the welcome news of two domestically produced COVID-19 vaccines nearing emergency approval. If ever humankind needed reminding that healthcare is central to all economic and social wellbeing, 2020 certainly achieved that. Countries that had robust healthcare systems, and these were not necessarily the world’s richest countries, fared much better than others. Never before in India have health issues received the kind of attention they have in the past year. How can we leverage this attention to drive long-awaited health system reforms? Learning from the fault lines the pandemic has exposed, and the grit and valour healthcare workers have shown, how can we deliver affordable, accessible, comprehensive, and accountable healthcare to all Indians?
The challenges are many. There are deep structural weaknesses in India’s health systems, including inadequate financing, medical supplies, and personnel; irrational treatments, rampant profiteering, and a breakdown of trust and accountability. Gender, caste, class, religion, and community barriers exacerbate health inequalities. There is much to be done on all dimensions, promotive, preventive, and curative. But if ever there was a time to do it, it is now.
For its first Coronavirus Briefing of 2021, on Thursday, January 7, NCAER will host the well-known authors of this recent book to discuss what the pandemic is teaching us about critical health sector reforms that India needs. Speaking about this will be authors Chandrakant Lahariya, health systems and public policy expert, Gagandeep Kang, FRS, Professor at CMC Vellore, and Randeep Guleria, Director and Professor at AIIMS, New Delhi. Professor Kang is also Co-Chair of the just-established Lancet Citizens’ Commission on Reimagining India’s Health System.
Sharing their insights on the book and on health system reforms will be Preeti Sudan, until mid-last year the Union Health Secretary and now a member of the International Panel for Pandemic Preparedness & Response, Devi Prasad Shetty, Chairman, Narayana Health, and NCAER Director General, Shekhar Shah. The discussion will be chaired by N K Singh, Chairperson of the 15th Finance Commission that has just completed its work and has paid special attention to health issues.