Ramya Kannan

India’s biggest problem is rural-urban divide in the sector: Pratap Reddy

“In every country, health and education have become priority sectors”

“U.S. has made big difference in technology, diagnosis, management, outcomes”

CHENNAI: Just ahead of United States Secretary of State Michael Leavitt’s visit to India, key players in the health care industry are hoping to discuss areas of collaboration between the two nations to benefit the global health services sector.

Pratap Reddy, Chairman, Apollo Group of Hospitals and CII National Health Care Committee, says the attempt will be to analyse what the nations can do together to make healthcare better for both countries and if they can address each other’s shortcomings.

In every country, health and education have become priority sectors. However, in almost all countries, there are gaps, Dr. Reddy says. In the U.S. for instance, there are about 40 million people who are not insured, and costs are rising. In the U.K., with the National Health Service, there are long waiting lists and India’s biggest problem is the rural-urban divide in healthcare.

Cost benefits

On the other hand, India has a lot of human resources and can provide immense costs benefits. There must be a way of passing on the positives of each system to the other.

These issues will be at the centre of the round table discussion on ‘Indo-US Lifesciences, Health Sciences and Public Health collaborations,’ organised by the CII, in which Mr. Leavitt and Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss will participate.

Dr. Reddy says the two nations must work on the example set by the telecommunication and information technology industries. “By getting bigger better, they have managed to bring down prices drastically… Telecom and IT have shown the path. The two nations must understand this and devise a method to become bigger, better and reach more people, thus lowering the costs of healthcare.”

The US has made a big difference in technology, diagnosis, management and outcomes. The question is how to replicate this in all the healthcare institutions in India. Even in the field of research, there are several lessons to learn from that nation. The National Institutes of Health, US, spends close to US $ 20-25 billion for research through various institutions.

However, 99 per cent of research is still on the bench, Dr. Reddy says. “We have to see how India can co-operate to bring the fruits of research to the bedside. Their research costs make products expensive. If one were to work with the clinical pool available in India, we could probably develop services and products at one third the cost.”

On the other hand, India lacks strength in research in basic and clinical sciences. The lesson from America can be used immediately to stimulate research and translate findings into action.

Another key area that will be discussed, according to Dr. Reddy, is the possibility of adapting a common medical curriculum and a common food and drug regulatory authority (on the lines of the US FDA) for both nations.

Some work is already on in the latter segment, with Dr. Ramadoss taking efforts to form an FDA-like authority. There is also a huge potential in harnessing the benefits of the Indian Systems of Medicine, after validating the process and products scientifically, Dr. Reddy adds.