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Covid-19: Prevention is better than cure

Last Updated : 22 June 2020, 19:29 IST
Last Updated : 22 June 2020, 19:29 IST

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While the coronavirus pandemic has exposed many of our healthcare system’s underlying weaknesses, no one is addressing the elephant in the room. Co-morbidities have been one of the primary causes of coronavirus deaths globally, and non-communicable diseases are the main culprits. Their incidence is on the rise and they are currently responsible for 61% of all deaths in the country. This number is only set to go up with increasing lifestyle changes and shifting disease patterns.

It does not help that the Indian healthcare system is full of contradictions. Even though the healthcare costs in the country are among the most affordable worldwide, almost 96% of the rural population and 82% of the urban population do not have health insurance. While medical tourism is set to cross 8 billion dollars in 2020, we suffer from a deficit of more than 600,000 doctors and 2 million nurses.

Conventional medicine alone cannot guarantee equal access to healthcare in India. We have a population of over 1.3 billion and the social, economic, geographical and infrastructural variations across the country make it impossible for a reactionary allopathic approach to succeed in delivering the mandate of universal health coverage.

The government needs to put preventive care on the front foot to improve health outcomes and reduce the burden on our healthcare system. For instance, naturopathy is one such system that relies on the power of the body to heal itself. Naturopaths factor in physical, environmental, psychological and social factors when treating a patient. The unique patient-centric approach focuses on devising customized, non-invasive and drugless treatments to treat chronic conditions.

Yoga is another holistic system of physical and mental exercises that have been shown to control non-communicable diseases, from diabetes and arthritis to hypertension and chronic respiratory diseases. Many physicians recommend it to their patients as a part of disease management and prevention. It is slowly but surely becoming an integral part of the multi-sectoral approach to tackling NCDs.

The coronavirus pandemic has also made people acutely aware of their unhealthy lifestyles. Patients across the country have begun to see the value of preventive care and have started to take their health into their hands. This will lead to a rise in wellness tourism and give the alternative medicine industry an unprecedented leg up. The government has to take cognizance of the fact. Encouraging investments in wellness schemes will surely help alleviate the severity of the crisis and lay the road to a healthier India. Standardizing the practise of naturopathy will help restore its credibility as a scientific system of medicine. While the central government has set up regulatory bodies for Homeopathy, Ayurveda, Unani, and Siddha, yoga and naturopathy remain unregulated, owing to the fact that they are drugless systems of medicine.

Although a parliamentary committee sought to include both naturopathy and yoga in the NCISM bill, there has been no development on that front yet. Making the bill more inclusive is the only way to ensure quality in healthcare delivery. It will lead to a more productive interface between conventional and alternative systems of medicine, lightening the load on our healthcare system. More importantly, it will force practitioners to follow standards, which will help restore global credibility. Instituting a committee with industry experts can help solve the tricky regulatory issues, and ease the process of integrating yoga and naturopathy in the NCISM bill. Allocating central funds to integrate complementary approaches into the primary care setting will help widen its reach and efficacy, and promote a healthcare service delivery model that will be unique in its approach and act as an example for developing countries across the world. If the government can spearhead mass awareness campaigns to educate people on the benefits of alternative medicine, they will surely get all the support they can from the industry.

(The writer is Chairman, Jindal Naturecure Institute)

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Published 22 June 2020, 18:16 IST

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