It was encouraging that the Finance Minister today opened the Union Budget speech by talking about India’s economic growth, which is expected to be at 7%, the highest among the major economies. It was reassuring as across the world, there are several nations standing at the brink of a slowdown.
India’s success in managing the COVID-19 pandemic, even as it put people first, and yet managing to minimisethe economic impact, stands as a valuable lesson for generations to come; that populations are the bedrock of an economy. Further, the crisis underlined that a nation must ensure its healthcare ecosystem is not only robust, but resilient too.
In the present day, delivering healthcare and making ecosystems resilient require a fine balance between advanced medicine, cutting-edge technology, skilled resources and preventive healthcare. A country’s health infrastructure must enable its doctors to deliver best-in-class clinical outcomes. There must be continuous innovation to boost quality of medical education and a concerted focus on skilling for healthcare is vital. Finally, contemporary technologies should be harnessed to achieve these goals, bridge gaps and prepare for the future.
I believe the Budget announcements set the course towards most of these aspects that will have an impact in the near and longer term too. In particular, a welcome one was the 157 new nursing colleges that would be established in collaboration with existing medical colleges.
Similarly, skilling youth for the manifold aspects of healthcare will create a valuable talent factory for India and the world. Several nations with a considerable silver population are grappling with an acute paucity of resources and exporting our talent. New multidisciplinary courses for medical devices, setting up of 5G labs and centres of excellence for Artificial Intelligence will ensure that India has the talent base to exploit the opportunities from futuristic medical technologies, as they arise.
Focus on medical research and innovation with select ICMR labs made available to the private sector for research and development (R&D) will encourage collaboration between biotech entrepreneurs and the government. These initiatives along with a new programme to promote research and innovation in the pharmaceutical industry highlights the Budget’s focus on technology in making strong strides towards a healthier and more prosperous India.
Above all, the fact of medicine is that the best way to beat disease, is to avert it. Therefore, similar to the thrust on the Sickle Cell Anaemia Elimination Mission announced today, it would be wonderful if many more of the non-communicable diseases are targeted to prevent millions of untimely fatalities.
The writer is Executive Vice Chairperson, Apollo Hospitals and past president, NATHEALTH