Acting beyond borders through globalisation of healthcare
On World Health Day, the commitment of UPES School of Health Sciences is to generate world-class leaders in pharmacy and allied disciplines who can contribute towards making healthcare accessible to one and all
Globalisation refers to the universal movement of money, people, information and ideas. The term or its implications are not new anymore but what is new is the globalisation of healthcare in the COVID-19 era. The times of pandemic have seen rave advancements in the areas of delivery of healthcare, adoption of modern technology in diagnostics and medicine, sprouting out of new policies and grants to fund healthcare and churning out the best of trained personnel in this sector. Besides the effect of globalisation on healthcare, it is essential to illustrate and emphasise the fundamentals of health and hygiene, which we are already aware of and put things into perspective.
Around this time in March last year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic and the whole world went into a frenzy. There were travel bans and prohibitions, enhanced hand hygiene, the introduction of the mandatory use of masks and gloves when in public and the eventual lockdown to curb the immediate spread. However, the most important outcome of the announcement of the COVID-19 pandemic was that it initiated efforts towards one common scientific theme – the generation of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Though, several questions arise from the handling of the pandemic: What was the need to act coordinately? Why didn’t the governance of the COVID-19 pandemic look like how governors run states/countries and why is the world still together in this?
That is because health is for all.
The globalisation of healthcare became an emergent need when a microbe saw no boundaries while infecting and caused havoc; rapid action had to be taken to curb its spread. Previous epidemics that have hit mankind – like HIV, ZIKA, Ebola, SARS and MERS – all have had origins in one country. But due to the increased mobility of people around the world in the last decade, the diseases hit other regions of the world quite rapidly. The economic slowdown brought about by these epidemics, especially the COVID-19 pandemic, has been overwhelming both for developing and underdeveloped countries, which is why the world came together to fight this.
Until the pandemic hit, India was a country of choice for medical tourism i.e. people travelled to get affordable healthcare. The whole situation turned due to the pandemic; tourism, as well as medical tourism, hit rock bottom. Jobs of billions were at stake. Everything seemed dark and gloomy for India until a diversification and transformation of its pharmaceutical industry turned the nation into the biggest drug and vaccine producer.
60% of the world’s vaccines come from India and at a comparatively cheaper cost. India is leading by example during the COVID–19 pandemic by lending vaccines to other countries, at a cost as low as INR 250. The vaccines made in India are being shipped globally.
India has the best of medical and para-medical education, research-focussed schools and the best of brains. The vaccine initiatives began in the west, however, India became the biggest vaccine manufacturer and also the largest market. The world entrusted India for research, manufacturing and distribution of vaccines. Some vaccines had tough storage requirements like storage at -70oC and were clearly not for the masses. These continued to only flood the west and the wealthy nations. The ones with 0-8oC storage requirements are being manufactured and distributed in India. The mere realisation of the fact that vaccines were made for all, no single person benefitted alone and if some vaccines did not cater to the masses, newer ones became the focus of developing countries reiterate the notion that health is for all. The lead research countries like the US, UK and Germany led vaccine R&D efforts and India caught up sooner than imagined.
On World Health Day, the commitment of UPES School of Health Sciences, Dehradun, India is to generate world-class leaders in pharmacy and allied disciplines like microbiology. As an academic institution that believes in outcome-based education and is run by global faculties coming from the world over, globalisation of health care and medicine is the central theme and key driver of UPES’ curriculum development, training, internship and research. The inter-disciplinary school offers courses with industrial internships, inter-disciplinary research projects and theory and practical exposure in courses like epidemiology and disease management, pharmacovigilance, diet and disease, probiotics and prebiotics.
Let us hope that the global community remains one and together in all circumstances and not merely to combat pandemics because the quest for good living is fundamental to all. SoHS, UPES supports a more scientific world while continuing to fight the pandemic using vaccines, soaps, masks and sanitisers.
(The author is Assistant Professor, UPES School of Health Sciences.)