The Vice President, M. Venkaiah Naidu today called for bridging the urban-rural disparity in the health infrastructure on a mission mode and appealed to the private sector to try to expand its footprint to semi-urban and rural areas, and provide affordable healthcare to the people. He also suggested to Governments to partner proactively with the private sector to take modern medical facilities to rural areas, particularly the remote regions.
Speaking at the foundation laying of the Nirali Multispecialty Hospital, the Vice President said that COVID-19 pandemic taught a valuable lesson on the importance of good health and observed that a good healthcare system can actually stimulate economic development in a region.
An efficient and affordable healthcare system can “reduce financial burden on the poor, improve worker productivity, reduce absenteeism in schools, and ultimately, have a strong positive correlation with growth”, he added. Good health is thus ‘an asset to the individual, the community, and society at large’, Naidu underlined.
Referring to the tremendous progress achieved by India in health indicators since Independence, the Vice President said there were still significant challenges that demand concerted action. In improving our healthcare system, the private sector, civil society and other organizations must proactively partner with the government, he added.
Naidu underlined the need to create greater awareness on mental health issues. In this context, he referred to the WHO estimate of 2019 that 7.5% of Indians were affected by mental health disorders and that the pandemic’s impact on mental health is yet to be estimated fully. He called for removing the stigma associated with mental health and adopting a holistic approach to address mental health issues. More than anything else, he said, we must show a willingness to talk about mental health.
The Vice President also sought to bring attention to the increasing burden of non-communicable diseases. Noting that lifestyle diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart disease now account for more than 60 percent of the deaths in the country, he underlined the need to create greater awareness among people.
He urged the healthcare experts in the public and private sector to take the lead in initiating a campaign on the health hazards caused by sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy diets.
The Vice President stressed the need to adopt a more holistic and comprehensive view of healthcare. In this context, he quoted WHO’s definition saying “health is not only the absence of illnesses; it is also the ability of people to develop to their potential during their entire lives”.
He suggested that healthcare implies “an effort to stay ‘happy’— physically, mentally and spiritually.” and in line with this approach, he called upon doctors and hospitals to adopt a more human-centric approach to medical care. “Together, this way, we must strive to mitigate humanity’s suffering and spread happiness”, he said.
Before concluding, the Vice President recalled the historic movements of Dandi Salt March and Bardoli Satyagraha, which took place in the region. Noting the global recognition to the Dandi March of 1930, Naidu said it reminded us of the power of Atma Shakti and Atma Nirbharta. He observed that these movements continue to remain as exemplars for movements everywhere in their use of peaceful means to achieve desired goals.
Naidu commended the philanthropic efforts of A.M. Naik, L&T Group Chairman in setting up the Healthcare Campus to serve the people of the region.
Ishwar Parmar, Hon’ble Minister, Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of Gujarat, C R Patil, Member of Parliament Navsari, Anil Manibhai Naik, Founder, Nirali Medical Memorial Trust, S. N. Subrahmanyan, Managing Director, Larsen & Tubro, Y S Trivedi, Board Member of Nirali Medical Memorial Trust and others participated in the event.
Following is the full text of the speech:
“It is indeed a pleasure to be here with you today. I am very happy to have been invited to lay the Foundation Stone of the Nirali Multi-Specialty Hospital, a noble initiative of A.M. Naik, L&T Group Chairman, philanthropist and Padma Vibhushan awardee. The underlying aim of the hospital—to provide affordable tertiary healthcare facilities to the common people of the region—is a commendable one indeed.
This multi-specialty hospital and the adjoining Cancer Hospital which form part of the A.M. Naik Healthcare Campus is a pathbreaking initiative in catering to the healthcare needs of the people of this region. As I have emphasised often, in every field, public and private sector working together is key to achieving our national developmental goals. For all these efforts and endeavours, I convey my heartfelt appreciation for Naik ji.
Coming to Surat and Navasari reminds me of the historic Dandi salt march Gandhiji undertook here in 1930, more than 90 years ago. The simplicity of the movement, the purity of the ideals and the strict adherence to non-violent means won fame and recognition for the movement the world over. It gave a great strength to our independence movement and reminded us of the power of Atma Shakti and Atma Nirbharta.
The Bardoli Satyagraha against unjust taxation led by Sardar Patel – another glorious episode during the Civil Disobedience Movement, also took place in this region.
The Dandi March and Bardoli Satyagraha remain exemplars even today for movements worldwide and in India to adopt peaceful means for achieving desired goals. As I say often, peace is the prerequisite for progress.
Dear sisters and brothers,
Gandhiji once said: “It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver”. His words have a ring of universal truth to them. Without health, there is no meaning for wealth. We must remember that wealth alone won’t serve us- the service we do and the reputation we earn will help the world and our family, even after we are no more. That is why I say,
‘Live for others and live long!’
The COVID pandemic has taught this invaluable lesson to humanity that health is of paramount importance above everything else. Just as this is true of an individual, it is true of a society, as well.
Our COVID warriors—doctors, nurses, paramedical staff, health workers and ASHA workers in villages—in fact, the entire medical fraternity—have shown extraordinary will and made selfless sacrifices at great risk to their lives to help us fight the pandemic. I salute them for placing others’ needs before theirs and becoming living embodiments of our philosophy of ‘share and care’!
Emphasis on health is not to say health and wealth are mutually exclusive. A good healthcare system can, in fact, be a stimulator for economic development in a region, along with education and industries. An efficient, affordable, and quality healthcare system can reduce the financial burden on the poor, improve worker productivity, reduce absenteeism in schools, and ultimately, have a strong positive correlation with growth. Good health is thus an asset to the individual, the community, and society at large.
Sisters and brothers,
India has achieved tremendous progress in health indicators since Independence, with the availability of modern medicine, better facilities and the attention of the government. But in a country as vast and diverse as India, there is always more to be done.
There are still significant health challenges before us that demand our attention and concerted action. They include low public expenditure, low doctor-patient ratio, increasing out-of-pocket expenditure, shortage of medical colleges, inadequate infrastructure in rural areas, and low adoption of health insurance, among others. Ideating, working and improving on them, is the prerogative not only of the government but also of the private sector, the civil society, and other organizations.
As we all are aware, one of the biggest hurdles in our vision for an ‘Ayushman Bharat’ is the existence of huge disparity between urban and rural areas in terms of health infrastructure. We need to bridge this gap in a mission mode.
While the private sector has been an able partner for the government in providing medical facilities, this is still largely confined to urban areas. I urge the private sector to expand its footprint to semi-urban and rural areas and provide affordable healthcare to the people.
Taking advantage of the public-private partnership model, Governments too must partner more proactively with the private sector for taking modern medical facilities to rural areas, particularly the remote regions. Ensuring effective primary health care system in rural areas is crucial to improve health outcomes.
Sisters and brothers,
High out-of-pocket expenditure is another aspect that needs to be addressed. It is a matter of concern that health expenses, medicinal and treatment costs push many people into the vicious cycle of poverty. There is a need to improve health insurance penetration and the reach of Jan Aushadhi Kendras.
In this regard, the Government’s commitment to the setting up of a Jan Aushadhi Kendra at every block level is a welcome step indeed. It is with the same spirit that the Prime Minister started the flagship health protection scheme, Ayushman Bharat which provides a cover of up to ₹5 lakh per family per year, for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization to over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families.
Another area of concern is the shortage of qualified doctors and trained para-medical staff in the country. It was estimated that India faces a shortage of 6 lakh doctors and 2 million nurses. More medical colleges— public and private—need to be set up to rectify this. We need to train and deploy doctors and nurses at a faster rate to bridge the gap, particularly in rural areas.
India is going through an epidemiological transition. The incidence of non-communicable and lifestyle diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disorders is on the rise, accounting for more than 60 percent of deaths in the country. We need to bring about greater awareness among the people regarding these lifestyle diseases. I call upon the health experts in both the public and private sector to take the lead in initiating a campaign on health hazards caused by sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy diets.
Similarly, another integral aspect of health that needs much more awareness is that of mental health. The WHO had estimated in 2019 that 7.5% of Indians were affected by mental health disorders. The pandemic’s impact on mental health is yet to be estimated fully, not in India alone, but elsewhere in the world, as well. We need to give mental health its due importance, heighten awareness to remove the stigma associated with it and go for a holistic approach to address it. More than anything else, we must be willing to talk about mental health.
Lastly, I would like to call your attention to the importance of early childhood care in health and wellbeing. The physical, emotional, and social nourishment a child receives plays a crucial role in an individual’s development. Despite the progress in recent years, we still need to improve maternal and child health, especially in the aspect of nutrition.
Sisters and brothers,
We need to adopt a holistic and comprehensive view of healthcare. As the WHO suggests, “Health is not only the absence of illnesses; it is also the ability of people to develop to their potential during their entire lives.”
Healthcare must mean an effort to stay ‘happy’— physically, mentally and spiritually. We must be proactive in seeking this ‘happiness’ and spreading it. Doctors and hospitals must also reorient themselves to a more human-centric approach to medical care. Healthcare providers must deliver affordable access to state-of-the-art medical facilities to the poor.
Before I conclude, I would like to once again convey my deepest appreciation to Anil Naik ji. My best wishes to him and his team for their future endeavours.
Together, this way, we must strive to mitigate humanity’s suffering and spread happiness. As our ancestors used to say, “Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu”.