Health Matters: Planning, Prevention & Policy

Sandro Galea, P Reddy, Priya Kakkar

[L-R] Sandro Galea, Preetha Reddy, Priya Balasubramaniam Kakkar

[Mumbai, March 14, 2018]: Asia Society India Centre welcomed Dr. Sandro Galea, Dean of the Boston University School of Public Health, for a panel discussion on the subject of public health and health system reform in Mumbai. Joining him was Dr. Preetha Reddy, Vice Chairperson of Apollo Hospitals, and Dr. Priya Balasubramaniam Kakkar, Senior Public Health Specialist at the Public Health Foundation of India.

Dean Galea opened the evening with a presentation emphasizing on the need for smarter spending on healthcare. Noting that health is more than just a product of quality medical care – it is a result, rather, of a combination of socio-economic factors including good income, public transport, housing and education - Galea pointed out the inverse relationship between healthcare spending and performance that exists in the U.S. The U.S. tops the list of OECD countries in terms of healthcare spending and yet performs relatively poorly on health indicators (such as life expectancy) and health system performance. Using football as an analogy, Galea explained that medical care should be the absolute last defence against illness (or the “goalkeeper”), while the aforementioned societal conditions that produce good health (the “rest of the team”) should be the real focus of investment and spending.

Dr. Kakkar launched the discussion with an observation that the costs of private healthcare in India are astronomically high. She noted that while the top 5% of Indian society seek healthcare abroad and the bottom of the pyramid are provided this by the government, the middle, tax-paying section of society (middle class) is often impoverished by incidences of chronic illness due to high out of pocket costs. Comprehensive, universal health coverage is therefore essential.

Upon being asked about the role of public and private sectors in providing this coverage, Galea opined that the private sector is currently incentivized to maximize profits rather than contribute to a healthier world and underestimates the benefits that would accrue to it from having a healthier population. A paradigm shift is therefore needed. At the same time, however, healthcare companies cannot alone be relied upon – the government and other industry actors also need to collaborate. Reddy echoed his sentiments, stating that the government alone cannot provide healthcare and that there needs to be less suspicion about private and public partnerships. The government particularly has a role in spreading awareness about the importance of health.

In partnership with:

Boston University School of Public Health




As reported by Ishani Shukla, Programme Assistant 

Watch the complete program (1 hr, 37 min.)