Building back health

Vani Manja | Updated on July 18, 2021

Reaching out: Sustainable care tailored to suit individual rural communities   -  REUTERS

Covid-19 reminds us yet again why we cannot afford to ignore rural healthcare

For years, India’s young in rural villages and towns have been drawn to larger urban hubs in pursuit of jobs and subsequently, better quality of life. The uncertainty about the future in their villages seemed less alarming than the certainty of lost livelihood, lack of a support for families, increased debt and the very real danger from the virus.

This triggers a sense of urgency to plan for holistic growth and development in the hinterlands, by fostering sustainable social, economic and health welfare. Building resilient rural communities by optimising existing resources, undertaking health interventions and sharing data has become priority. This could well serve as a basis to guide our thinking and plans towards holistic growth and societal development in rural centres and small towns and cities across the nation, fostering sustainable social, economic and health welfare.

A few crucial imperatives to ensure a sustainable foundation at specific small towns include improved preventive and therapeutic healthcare infrastructure and disciplined management of chronic conditions; livelihood programs for a better quality of life, quality educational infrastructure to build, nurture and retain talent; and initiatives to preserve the ecological balance for locally available nutrition to facilitate all health and livelihood interventions.

What will it take to deliver on these imperatives to help build sustainable lives and livelihoods in rural India? Partnerships are at the core of the approach. Public-private partnerships and associations with community-based organizations can go a long way in helping shape affordable and sustainable approaches to fit individual rural communities. It is paramount to find ways to incentivize and support community health networks that include health care providers, NGOs, businesses, and local government teams.

Such partnerships would establish healthcare infrastructure beyond the choked healthcare provider networks of urban India, providing rural India the foundation and strength to endure future health challenges. As India’s experience with the pandemic has made clear, populations that were already experiencing health disparities have been significantly impacted. Rural health partnerships also enable communities to address social and economic determinants of health challenges, help mitigate disparities and enhance health and wellbeing, consequently reducing strain on healthcare providers.

If necessity is the mother of invention, then crisis is the mother of adoption. Partnerships for infrastructure development and affordable access to quality healthcare in rural India have been in discussion much before COVID-19 times. Now with lessons learnt, it is clear that such partnerships are indispensable to build a robust future.

‘Holistic’ and ‘sustainable’ are inseparable attributes of long-term development at a family, organizational, city, national or global level. Not so long ago, we focused on ‘Smart City’ rollouts, with the objective of providing sustainable and holistic development models as a reference to other parts of India to follow suit. Sustainable livelihood, healthcare and educational models at rural and urban centers alike as part of the agenda of a renewed ‘Smart City’ initiative could be the turning point for us to look beyond our today and tomorrow, to anticipate and be prepared for the challenges, and to realize the possibilities of the future.

Vani Manja, Boehringer Ingelheim India


Vani Manja is Managing Director, Boehringer Ingelheim India. Views are personal

Published on June 27, 2021

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