Pandemic taught role of public health-care institutions: WHO Chief Scientist

Soumya Swaminathan says Kerala needs to focus on disease prevention, health promotion and risk factors

The COVID-19 pandemic has taught the importance of investing in public health care, Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization, has said.

Dr. Swaminathan underscored the importance of equity, sustainability and resilience in planning health systems for the future.

Speaking at Kerala Looks Ahead, she lauded Kerala for its excellence in development and its high health indicators. Kerala should now look at aspects of public health which includes disease prevention, health promotion and attention to risk factors and determinants of disease that are outside the health sector such as air pollution, nutrition, balanced diets and dietary diversity, she said.

“Even in well-developed States like Kerala, there are pockets of under-development, pockets of poverty where there are highly vulnerable people whose health outcomes are far worse than the rest of the population,” she said.

Sustainability would be a critical factor in designing health systems and so is resilience in the face of health shocks that manifest from time to time, Dr. Swaminathan said.

COVID-19 pandemic has taught us the importance of investing in public health. This includes everything from having a robust surveillance system which is based on digital data collection, trained human resource, well-equipped laboratories and allied facilities, she said.

She said Kerala can focus on the strengths it has in traditional health-care systems like Ayurveda. Dr. Swaminathan pointed out that Kerala had handled the Nipah virus outbreak excellently with minimal impact and loss of lives. “The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has overtaken the capacity of the best health systems in the world. Therefore, this is a good time to review and identify where policies can be improved and also the gaps in human resource and institutional capacity.”

CM inaugurates conclave

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan inaugurated the three-day meet.

Kerala expected to learn from the best practices from other parts of India and the world to help it transform into a progressive and modern economy.

“We need to think collectively on ways to move forward. We look forward to ideas that will help transform Kerala into a true knowledge economy founded on new technologies and innovation,” he said.

The State is set for a great transformation, building on its achievements in land reform, education, health, social justice and decentralisation, the Chief Minister said. The three-day conference will discuss ways to boost development and manage agricultural, animal and fishery resources and industrial development.

Areas of focus include upgrading of centres of higher education, providing quality services to citizens, transparency and efficiency in governance and transforming Kerala into the country’s hub for skilled labour.

Ministers A.K. Saseendran, K. Krishnankutty and E. Chandrasekharan; Planning Board Vice Chairman V.K. Ramachandran, and Planning Board member secretary Venu V. spoke.

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