India’s G20 presidency is creating a fairer global health architecture , writes Union health minister
India’s vision of a healthier globe emanates from the philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam that translates into One Earth, One Family One Future. So, as part of India’s G20 presidency policymakers from member countries and experts from the medical fraternity shall unfold the foundation and framework of a Global Health Architecture (GHA) at a series of Health Working Group meetings, starting this month. GHA envisages equipping countries to face the next health emergency with robust healthcare systems.
World over, Covid made world leaders realise that a single country, however well-equipped with medical infrastructure, may not be able to turn the tide against a crisis like the pandemic. For low- and middle-income countries (LMICS), the situation in such times worsens as access to basic health is restricted and uneven. Prime Minister Modi has defined the central objective of India’s G20 presidency as “healing, harmony and hope”. He envisages a more human-centric globalisation where universal healthcare is a key priority.
Priority 1: Strengthen national capacities
For India, GHA rests on three key priorities. The first is strengthening national capacities to prevent, prepare for and respond to major outbreaks. The agenda will include a One Health approach to antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Partnering with multiple organisations like WHO, World Bank, G7, Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator, this effort will attempt to synergise existing strengths and identify bottlenecks in the system.
One Health approach is critical for addressing the linkages between human, animal and environment sectors to resist the impact of AMR on communities. Coupled with pandemic countermeasures that are affordable,equitable and universal in access, G20 India Health Track aims to facilitate seamless interweaving towards a global health emergency architecture.
Priority 2: Strengthen pharma cooperation
The second priority of G20 is strengthening coope ration in the pharmaceutical sector in order to improve equitable access to quality vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics.
Indian generics are valued across the world.
In FY 2022, pharma products worth $24.47 billion were supplied to 200 countries.
India continues to provide affordable HIV drugs and anti-TB generics to several LMICS.
India’s role in addressing life-saving vaccine inequity has been appreciated worldwide.
While high-income countries raced to buy billions of doses of Covid vaccines, people from LMICS stayed unprotected and vulnerable for close to a year with no access to vaccines. Under the leadership of PM Modi, India provided critical doses to more than 100 countries during the most difficult phase of Covid through the ‘Vaccine Maitri’ initiative. This was accomplished without loss in quality or hiking the prices of vaccines and drugs. With the aim to strengthen the pharma sector, the government has introduced production-linked incentive sche mes. It has planned Bulk Drug Parks and Medical Device Parks. Building common facilities will reduce the costs of production and enhance availability and affordability of medical devices. While Italy (2021 presidency) and Indonesia (2022 presidency) concentrated on setting up regional manufacturing and research hubs, India’s G20 presidency proposes to address the gaps in the availability, accessibility and affordability of medical countermeasures. It shall continue to prioritise global networks for R&D and manufacturing for medical countermeasures and end-to-end medical countermeasure platforms during its presidency.
Priority 3: Digital solutions
The third priority is digital health innovations and solutions to aid universal health coverage. The global Covid experience has amply demonstrated how digital technologies can help in remote data capture, medical diagnosis and virtual care. The experience was trans formative in India.
Millions of citizens used the CoWin app to access vaccines; thousands moved to online medical consultations; in remote areas, tele-consultation proved to be life-saving.
Gol’s free telemedicine service, eSanjeevani, has recently crossed a remarkable milestone of 90 million tele-consultations.
India is marching towards universal health coverage through initiatives such as Ayushman Bharat-PMJAY where more than 500 million people are eligible for free-of-cost tertiary healthcare, backed by technology to make it portable, scalable and paperless across states.
Co Win has been shared with several countries as a digital public health good.
The collective efforts of G20 members will help create an ecosystem that provides open access to several LMICS for more equitable healthcare.
India plans to draw a framework for the Global Initiative on Digital Health and harness the potential of artificial intelligence in building more resilient infrastructure.
When several countries endowed with better healthcare infrastructure have been challenged. India has demonstrated how timely planning, efficient manage ment of cold chains, good R&D, focussed policy decisions and integrated implementation through strong Centre-state collaboration can achieve Covid vaccination of more than 2.2 billion doses. Enriched with this experience, the G20 presidency provides us the mandate to assume a leadership position for the Global South and propose a fresh vision of a healthier world order.