Context: As the global pandemic is marching on, the most important lesson to be learnt is the significance of investing in public health and primary healthcare

More on the news:

  • Countries that have invested in primary healthcare over the past decade or so are reaping the benefits now. Another lesson is the positive role of science and scientists. 

Gendered impact in India:

  • On health
    • Disruption of essential services: Like disruption of immunisation services, diagnosis and treatment of non-communicable diseases, etc.
    • Areas where progress is witnessed: India has seen progress in maternal mortality and there have been significant gains in infant mortality, institutional births and replacement level fertility. 
    • Areas where more needs to be done: 
      • There is still a high unmet need for family planning and improved access is required to contraceptive services and safe abortions. 
      • For example, because of the reduction in coverage of essential services, the prevalence of wasting in children could increase by 10% to 50%. 
  • On the education system: 
    • School meals not accessible: Covid has adversely affected access to nutritious food as a huge number of children depend on school meals. 
  • Surge in domestic violence
    • In India, a third of women said that they had experienced domestic violence, but less than 1% sought help from the police. 
    • Governments can include response to violence against women in the package of essential services. 
  • On work and livelihoods: 
    • More women than men work in the informal economy: Therefore their income fell by over 60% during the first month of the pandemic. 
  • Feminisation of poverty:
    • In India, the number of women and girls living in extreme poverty is expected to increase from 87 million to 100 million. 

Major issues:

  • Lack of gender-responsive public health policies: The World Health Organization (WHO) emphasised the importance of gender analysis and gender-responsive public health policies. 
  • Lack of data: 
    • One of the major issues is the lack of availability of data that is disaggregated by sex and age. 
    • India also do not have data on violence against women and children. 
  • Inadequate financial protection
    • This can be guaranteed only if there is either a health coverage scheme, like Ayushman Bharat, or through private health insurance. 
    • The World Health Organization has been urging countries to ensure financial protection and effective coverage of health services. 

Way ahead: 

  • Moving toward digital technology: Using platforms to provide telemedicine. Platforms like ECHO have been used in many States to train healthcare workers and the government’s e-Sanjeevani platform is enabling telemedicine appointments. 
    • India now has a national digital health blueprint and a road map. 
  • Integrating social protection systems: Like food systems and health systems in order to really have an impact on nutrition. 
    • India has done much to ensure these services, but it needs to expand these to protect its most vulnerable population groups. 
  • Better infodemic management: False or misleading information leads to mistrust in governments and the public health response. In the last months India have done an incredible amount of work with many tech companies. 
  • Improving essential services outside the health sector: Such as the quality of water and air that impact our health. But investments here are much more difficult as they lie outside the health sector. 
  • Empowering our frontline health workers: There is the need to invest in them to ensure that they have the tools they need, receive regular training and mentoring, and are well paid. 
  • Strengthening institutional mechanisms and capacities: In regulatory bodies, research centres and public health institutions. 
    • This will help to involve citizens and the people it is trying to serve and have them involved in developing the services that are brought to them.

Source: IE