In 2017, over 56 million people lost their lives, not because of a pandemic, but due to conditions which could have been prevented through health interventions at the right time. Health science professionals can fill this void to improve wellness and quality of life of the global community
In the foreword of a 2006 World Health Organisation (WHO) report, the late Director-General of WHO, Lee Jong-Wook had enunciated that there is a chronic shortage of well-trained health professionals. And the shortage is global.
More than a decade later, the COVID-19 pandemic has crippled the health systems in several countries, primarily due to a shortage of manpower, highlighting that this assessment still holds true.
However, even before the Corona crisis, there were several health issues that the world was grappling with: The accelerating fast food culture and sedentary lifestyle causing obesity and heart attack, the rise of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancer and diabetes, nutritional deficiencies, digestive and liver diseases, accidents, maternal disorders, and infectious diseases such as AIDS/HIV, tuberculosis, and pneumonia.
According to the scientific publication ‘Our World in Data’, 56 million people lost their lives in 2017 due to these causes, with over 17 million deaths triggered by cardiovascular diseases, followed by cancer with nine million plus-deaths.
The silver lining here is that deaths can be prevented by reducing the major risk factors such as physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, and the harmful use of alcohol (in case of NCDs), integrated care, a ‘prevention is better than cure’ mindset, interventions and implementation of health policies at the ground level, research and collaboration, and capacity building.
This can be achieved with the support of health sciences professionals – whether it is a program officer, a community health specialist, a nutritionist, an occupational therapist, or a population health manager.
Hence, apart from taking measures to eradicate COVID-19, it is a given that the health sector will employ more and more professionals in various fields such as food, nutrition and dietetics, hospital and healthcare management, food technology, microbiology, clinical research and pharmaceutical chemistry to protect global health.
Building health sciences education capacity
Global health places a priority on improving health and achieving health equity for all people worldwide (Koplan et al). In the year 2000, 191 United Nations member states came together to set eight international developmental goals called the Millennium Developmental Goals (MDGs). Three out of these eight targets were health-related.
This was succeeded by the Sustainable Developmental Goals (SDGs), a collection of 17 global objectives designed to be a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all”. Good health and well-being are third on this list of SDGs, set in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly and intended to be achieved by the year 2030.
The year 2020, too, has given us a startling reminder about what matters the most – the health and safety of the people around us. It has also reminded us about the sheer lack of health science professionals as well as infrastructure. As the delicate balance between people and the planet gets awry, the world has realised that one cannot afford to simply go back to how things were before the pandemic.
With a shift towards an economy driven by well-being, ministries of health and higher education, local institutions, hospitals, and medical schools are likely to invest in vital life-saving services.
The critical change is to focus on educational capacity building. A degree in health sciences can unlock access to opportunities across the health spectrum including, but not limited to, medical laboratories, pharmaceutical companies, manufacturing companies, central or state governments, consulting firms, insurance companies and non-profit organizations.
Why UPES School of Health Sciences?
Recent reports have highlighted the need for educational programs to prepare students for careers developing and disseminating new interventions that improve global public health. Among the several universities offering undergraduate and post-graduate programs in health sciences, the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies (UPES) stands out for nurturing a culture of research and education through exciting interactions with industry experts, extensive laboratory work, comprehensive lectures, and enriching interactions with the faculty.
The UPES School of Health Sciences (SoHS) has collaborated with the Synergy Institute of Medical Sciences to provide experiential training and orientation program to familiarize the students with policies and procedures of the hospital.
For making education contemporary and industry-relevant with key inputs, the UPES School of Health Sciences also has an alliance with Wockhardt Limited, a global pharmaceutical and biotechnology company headquartered in Mumbai, India. The agreement has provisions for two months summer internship for students at the company.
The students are given clinical and community exposure and access to the latest technology and updates through discussions and seminars. With the collective vision and energy of the faculty and the students who aspire to become health sciences professionals, UPES is cultivating a new generation of health education leadership in the country.