What India’s wobbly healthcare system needs to survive future crises

Healthcare policy
We should come up with templates for future purposes, with officers in charge and communication systems, say experts | Image - Eunice Dhivya

History has shown that outbreaks come with a baggage of solutions — a good part of them devised by health experts after trial and error. The Spanish Flu that broke out soon after World War I had highlighted the importance of guidelines for infection control, brought about containment measures, including case isolation and closure of public places, apart from stepping up disease surveillance. It also brought about sweeping changes in public health systems in the West.

Now, COVID-19 has made people learn new concepts — self-quarantine and physical distancing, which were employed a century ago too. With the pandemic far from over in India and across the world, it has lessons for governments and the healthcare system.

Need epidemics policy for infectious diseases

India had borne the brunt of the Spanish Flu outbreak, accounting for one-fifth of the global death toll at 18 million deaths. Since then, its struggle with infectious diseases has remained long-drawn. While efforts to combat smallpox, leprosy and polio have been widely successful, we continue to wage a war against tuberculosis and vector-borne disease like dengue and malaria.

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