June 13, 2023
Deputy Assistant Administrator of the Bureau for Asia, U.S. Agency for International Development
Founder and Co-Chairman, Jubilant Bhartia Group
Executive Director, Global Initiative on Health and the Economy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted opportunities to improve healthcare in nations around the world. Since then, India, in particular, has been diligently working toward establishing a robust and resilient healthcare system by prioritizing enhanced patient outcomes.
During the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 48th annual India Ideas Summit, global and healthcare leaders discussed how the U.S. and India can work together to strengthen health systems.
The COVID-19 Pandemic Called for Quick Changes in Healthcare
The pandemic emphasized the importance of and need for a stronger, more unified healthcare system and workforce.
“I think we all realized during [the first months of] COVID that the health workforce was one of those pieces that we didn't realize how limited it was and how it didn't necessarily serve all the purposes, especially in terms of pandemic preparedness,” said Änjali Kaur, Deputy Assistant Administrator of the Bureau for Asia, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
In response, USAID created over 75 learning hubs, found in medical colleges as well as secondary and tertiary facilities across India, teaching patient response and standards of healthcare.
Major U.S. Organizations Working in India Want to Make a Difference
As India looks toward building a robust healthcare system to support its future needs and build healthier communities, major private and public sector organizations in the U.S. aim to help.
Milind Pant, CEO of Amway, described his organization’s support of micro-entrepreneurship through holistic health and wellness products. The company, which operates in India amongst 100-plus other countries and territories, focuses on three societal elements to improve community wellness.
“The first is [increasing] health span [rather than lifespan], [and] the second is that prevention is better than cure,” explained Pant. “The third is that all this needs to be done in the sense of community because it’s really tough to have healthy habits on your own.”
On the public sector side, Kaur outlined USAID’s priorities, especially in India, including climate change, education, health, and inclusive economic growth.
“Across everything that we do, we really focus on the most vulnerable population — who are the most marginalized, who are the most vulnerable people that don't have access to a number of these services that we speak about,” emphasized Kaur.
U.S.-India Partnerships Continue to Drive Healthcare Innovations
The partnership between U.S. and Indian companies offers rich opportunities for innovations in technology and healthcare.
“Innovation, whether it's in India or the U.S., in the pharma space, is to bring better products for patients and save lives,” said Hari Bhartia, Founder and Co-Chairman of Jubilant Bhartia Group. “What we are doing at Jubilant is … doing the early stage research in India, and bring that to us for doing clinical work. This kind of collaboration is… reducing the cost of [bringing] drugs to market.”
Bartia also points to AI as a major innovation for pharmaceutical research in the coming years due to its ability to predict patient outcomes and reduce time-to-market.
Kaur also noted the use of technology to drive solutions in healthcare. According to Kaur, one of USAID’s greatest efforts of innovation incorporates blockchain, AI, and virtual reality to digitize healthcare and better track patients’ needs.
“[The technology allows] the U.S. and India to come together on a shared platform with community groups, with doctors, with a number of people that can expand services in a way that we could never do before,” said Kaur.
Countries and Institutions Must Work Together to Improve Supply Chains and Invest in Healthcare
According to Bartia, while India has increased its capacity to manufacture pharmaceuticals, its capacity is only about 40 to 50% utilized. The ability to access that capacity depends, in part, on building stronger, more resilient supply chains.
“Between India and us, we have to work together in a manner that there is some level of consistent pricing so that companies can invest for the long term,” Bartia explained. “I don’t think there is an issue about investment; there’s an issue about capacity … [and] return on investment so that supplies are sustainable.”
Kaur also emphasized the importance of partnership to develop solutions that will, ultimately, improve patient outcomes.
“We [at USAID] were able to invest approximately 450 million in the health sector, in partnership with the government, with the private sector, with local communities and academia,” said Kaur. “[We] all [must come] together to put forward our collective ambitions.”
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