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Civil Society Public Health Initiative

Published: Feb. 26, 2022
Updated: Mar. 28, 2022

THE pandemic is a reminder of the need to quickly strengthen our public healthcare system. An elaborate structure exists and it needs to be brought back to life through a national effort. The question is how can this process begin at an accelerated pace.

The government, both at the Centre and in the states, has the most important role to play. It has to make investments, define deliverables and set standards. Millions of poor and uneducated people wait to be dependably served. Only the government can provide them healthcare which is accessible, affordable and inclusive. It also has to create the contexts in which doctors are encouraged to be guided by the values of their profession and a spirit of service.

There is much to be learned and gained from the examples set by public-spirited outliers whose initiatives have benefited people in far-flung corners of the country. Physicians and surgeons with the best of degrees have moved out of cities to dedicate themselves to working for the rural poor. They have set up hospitals and clinics to serve remote communities which would otherwise have no access to quality care.

Covering healthcare in the past 18 years in this magazine, we looked for and found such outliers both in the government and voluntary sectors. At a personal level their stories are inspirational. In their work and the challenges that they overcome can be found multiple solutions to delivering better healthcare across the country.

Their examples are a reminder that a national effort in healthcare should be diligent in recognizing local needs and resources. A centrally nurtured but distributed model is what is required.

Much is, however, to be gained through cross-learning and sharing of experience. It is to this end that we have created the Civil Society Public Health Initiative. We intend to make the connections that will enrich policy and create wider awareness of healthcare realities.

Meeting and listening to these doctors will take them out of their isolation. While many of them are part of government programmes at the local level, they don’t get the recognition and understanding that could be transformative. Their approach to healthcare and their values should be espoused as the standard society generally aspires to.

Parallelly, we have found technology playing an important role in making healthcare available to large numbers of people quickly and cheaply. Telemedicine is invaluable.

But devices that speed up diagnosis and treatment are now breaking new ground. Dr Raghunath Mashelkar calls this ‘inclusive innovation’ in this month’s cover article. Science and technology are used to serve a larger social good.

Many of these devices are born of personal experience. We believe we are witnessing a growing trend of qualified Indians dedicating themselves to nation-building by solving the problems of development.


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