Where The World Comes To Heal

A look back at its most outstanding healthcare achievements

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Dhanusha Gokulan

Published: Mon 15 Aug 2022, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Mon 15 Aug 2022, 11:17 AM

Post-independence from British colonisers, India’s most outstanding achievement in the public health arena has been a drastic decrease in mortality rates.

However, from launching national-level and ambitious initiatives to reducing and control-ling some deadly diseases, India has come a long way to remove its image of being a ‘disease-ridden’ or ‘dangerous’ country.

Here are some of India’s most outstanding achievements in the healthcare field as it celebrates 75 years of Independence.

Landmark achievements in 75 years

In 1947, the life expectancy of an average Indian citizen was around 32 years, and it increased to 70.19 years in 2022.

The increase in life expectancy in the last 75 years has been over 100 per cent. United Nations World Population Perspective states that the average global life expectancy is 72.98. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), India has significantly improved its people’s health outcomes.

There has been a dramatic decrease in child and maternal mortality rate, control of infectious diseases and an increase in healthcare policies and government schemes.

The Indian government plans to introduce a credit incentive programme worth Rs 500 billion ($6.8 billion) to boost the country’s healthcare infrastructure. The programme will allow firms to leverage the fund to expand hospital capacity or medical supplies, with the government acting as a guarantor and strengthening Covid-19-related health infrastructure in smaller towns.

India attractive for UAE healthcare providers?

A few of the biggest private healthcare providers in the UAE have Indian origins. These massive healthcare conglomerates invest heavily in India, from Aster DM Healthcare to the Thumbay Group.

In November 2021, Aster DM Healthcare announced that it is planning an Rs 900 crore ($120.97 million) capital expenditure over the next three years to expand its presence in India, as it looks at increasing the share of the revenue from the country to 40 per cent of the total revenue by 2025.

“Being home to 3.5 million Indian expatriates living in the UAE, India, and UAE have always shared mutual respect and unity. Over the past 50 years, numerous multi-level strategic partnerships between both nations have materialised, such as the recent CEPA and the formation of an alliance, I2U2 (India, Israel, the UAE, and the USA). For both nations, which are among the world's fastest growing and future-ready economies, this new era of the stronger partnership will witness new milestones over the next 25 years – the 100th anniversary of India’s independence and the 75th National Day of the UAE,” Dr Azad Moopen, Founder Chairman and Managing Director, Aster DM Healthcare.

Earlier this year, the company signed a Memorandum of Understanding with The Government of Tamil Nadu, India, to set up healthcare facilities in the State.

The MoU proposed an investment of Rs 500 crores in hospitals, pharmacies and laboratories in the State, which would help provide quality healthcare at an affordable cost to the people of Tamil Nadu and generate employment for more than 3500 people. Currently, Aster has 14 hospitals, nine clinics and 66 labs and patient experience centres in India, with an approximate investment of Rs 3,000 crores.

From being the first expatriate to set up a health profession higher education institute in Ajman, the Gulf Medical University, Dr. Thumbay Moideen, founder and president of the Thumbay Group, said the business venture had scaled exponentially. Today, the group provides healthcare to 20,000 people daily, with a combined workforce of around 3,500 employees.

Anurag Kashyap, a healthcare, tech and communications enthusiast, said: “India today presents a great investment destination to any international business, thanks to its large economy, colossal consumer market, and abundant pool of skills and talent.”

He added: “What is even more exciting, though, is the growth potential. Economists predict it will be the world's third largest economy and third largest consumer market by 2030.”

Kashyap said the growing incidence of lifestyle diseases, rising demand for affordable healthcare delivery systems due to the increasing healthcare costs, technological advance-ments, the emergence of telemedicine, rapid health insurance penetration, and government initiatives like e-health with tax benefits and incentives are driving the healthcare market in India.

“Furthermore, India has developed the workforce required in the primary, secondary and tertiary sectors in government, as well as in the private sector. These measures have in-creased life expectancy to over 68.3 years in 2014,” Kashyap explained.

What’s in store for the future?

According to the India Brand Equity Foundation Healthcare Industry Report, healthcare has become one of India’s largest sectors in revenue and employment.

Healthcare comprises hospitals, medical devices, clinical trials, outsourcing, telemedicine, medical tourism, health insurance and medical equipment. The Indian healthcare sector is growing briskly due to its strengthening coverage, services and increasing expenditure by public and private players.

India's competitive advantage lies in its large pool of well-trained medical professionals. Moreover, the South Asian country is also cost competitive compared to its peers in Asia and Western countries.

The report stated the Indian healthcare sector is expected to record a three-fold rise, grow-ing at a CAGR of 22 per cent between 2016–2022 to reach US$ 372 billion in 2022 from $110 billion in 2016. By 2022, Indian healthcare infrastructure is expected to reach $349.1 billion.

Health-Tech Start-ups

On the start-up front, when the startup ecosystem in China is losing steam, Indian startups seem to be gaining investors’ confidence. India witnessed a whopping 39 per cent year-on-year (YoY) growth in venture capital (VC) funding deal volume to 976 during the first half (H1) of 2022.

The corresponding disclosed funding value clocked a 4.5 per cent rise to $15.6 billion, ac-cording to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company. Moreover, India's preventive healthcare sector is projected to reach $197 billion by 2025.

Many start-ups, including Pharmeasy, CureFit, MediBuddy, Wysa, Mfine and Truemeds, are in the tech healthcare sector. India currently holds the fourth position in attracting VC funding to the health-tech sector, with investments of $ 4.4 billion between 2016 and 2021, with $ 1.9 invested in 2021 alone. Startup HealthifyMe, with a total user base of 30 million people, is adding half a million new users every month and crossed $40 million ARR in January 2022.

Response to Covid-19 and vaccination drive

By March 2022, the Covid-19 pandemic was on discernible wane. Just a month before that, India reported around 1,70,000 cases a day, and the latest numbers of the seven-day average suggest it has plummeted to ten per cent of that. India is now contributing to only 0.7 per cent of global cases. A year back, on March 21, patients were below 5,000 a day, encouraging several States and the Centre to claim that the pandemic was over.

“However, within a matter of weeks, there was a resurgence fueled by the delta variant, which birthed a summer of catastrophe," he explained. There is, however, a crucial distinc-tion between then and now in that close to 100 per cent of adults have received at least one dose of the Covid vaccine in India,” explained Kashyap.

“A small and growing number of those over 60 have had the third dose. Reports suggest that over 90 per cent of Indians have been exposed to the virus over the last two years. Therefore, combined with the vaccination, they are sufficiently protected against disease — but not infection — for many more months ahead,” he added.

What bears emphasis is that avoiding vaccination makes one, particularly the elderly, vulnerable to severe illness. As per a report, 92 per cent of those who died of Covid-19 since January this year were unvaccinated and underlined those vaccines.

Comprehensive vaccination coverage has played an essential role in protecting hundreds of lives. India manufactures more than 60 per cent of all vaccines sold across the globe. While its $40 billion pharmaceutical sectors is not yet involved in producing the expensive Moderna and Pfizer Inc. vaccines, the country will play a pivotal role in immunising a large population of the world.

Indian companies are set to produce over half a dozen more affordable vaccines to fight Covid-19. Many vaccines are being made in countries around the world. "Still, only one na-tion has the manufacturing capacity to produce sufficient quantities to satisfy the citizens' demands in every country, and that’s India," said Kashyap.

The Serum Institute of India (SII) made good on its promise of producing 400 million doses of Covishield by July and is setting up new production lines to roll out roughly one billion shots a year. Due to the large volumes of affordable vaccines coming out of India, no other country will contribute more towards ending the pandemic than India.

Medical Insurance Penetration

If the US has over 90 per cent of its citizens insured, India sits at a low 35 per cent. Even in this, the majority are from the mandatory health insurance categories of ECHS (for retired personnel of the Indian armed forces), CGHS (Central Govt. Health Scheme), ESI (Employee State Insurance), Group Healthcare Insurance taken up by private and public sector under-takings and the insurance policies purchased by the individuals from the primary reasons of saving on tax.

"We must remember that the US spends close to 15 per cent of its GDP on healthcare, and India spends close to two per cent," he added.

Healthcare Professionals and Medical Tourism

India is world-famous for its doctors and nurses and produces some of the world's best from reputable institutions in and out of the country.

However, there is an acute shortage of medical doctors in the country serving rural areas. The Indian government has paid less attention to assuring that at least six per cent of the GDP is allocated to the health sector. "The fund crunch has stagnated in establishing medical colleges under the state governments," said Kashyap.

India Today group survey in 2014 showed that private medical colleges constitute 20 per cent in the first twenty of all the medical college rankings in India after consideration of the faculty, infrastructure, publications, quality of education as assessed by the students, public image, etc. The Indian government is consequently pushing for extensive reforms in medical education.

Today, almost two million patients visit India each year from the Indian subcontinent, CIS, Middle East and Africa regions, generating $4 billion in annual forex, and the future is look-ing much brighter. In May this year, at the recently concluded Global Investment in Ayush Summit, India Prime Minister Narendra Modi talked passionately about India becoming a medical tourism hub for the world, serving and saving millions of lives each year.

It is an advantage for India given that Indian healthcare is in strong demand, India is an attractive investment destination, there is a rise in workforce, and India now enjoys firm poli-cy and government support, concluded Kashyap.

— dhanusha@khaleejtimes.com

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