Public health: In need of Nari Shakti

As we mark yet another Women’s Day this March, here are some sobering words from Sanghita Bhattacharyya, Senior Public Health Specialist at the Public Health Foundation of India, which sums up the situation very well:

“Beyond a narrow elite, there is little sign in India that women themselves are becoming more active in managing their health and well-being. Public health policy has paid limited attention to the well-being of women beyond their reproductive years. This in itself is a manifestation of gendered expectations, where even decision makers have not looked at women beyond their roles as mothers and care givers.”

She was speaking at the Global Consumer Health Debate 2016, held at Merck’s global headquarters, as part of an international panel of academics, public health specialists, NGO leaders and business experts. The topic of discussion was ways to close the gap between the future vision of women’s health and well-being and the current reality in countries across the globe.

Public health policy plays a central role in health, but it is seldom understood that improving the health and well being of women in a family also has great health benefits to the entire family because it is the women who are the custodians of their family’s health. Educating women on healthy practices therefore means that she would be the best person to educate her family.

Which is why Express Healthcare, our sister publication, will be organising a public health policy focussed summit, Healthcare Sabha, in Hyderabad from March 4-6 with support from the National Health Mission. (For more details, see

While investors seem to be more than interested to invest in pharma and healthcare IPOs (See cover story of the March 1-15, 2016 issue: Waiting to IPO?, pages 18-20), the public health sector needs investment of effort, expertise and efficiency from both policy exerts as well as industry gurus to ensure optimal utilisation of resources, be it funding or human talent. Do catch our forthcoming issue with the post event coverage of Healthcare Sabha, where public health experts will discuss financing models, use of ICT, frugal innovation, skilling programmes and PPPs, all through the lens of public healthcare in India.

While pharma IPOs may well turn out to be the flavour of 2016, quality issues could derail the entire industry’s prospects. Regulators from India, the US, the UK and the EU at Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance’s Indian Pharmaceutical Forum 2016, stressed the importance of making quality excellence the next frontier. When market competitors like Lupin, Sun Pharma, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, and Zydus Cadila join forces to tackle a common problem, there is hope that this time, we will breach this frontier as well.

Viveka Roychowdhury

Healthcare SabhaWomens Day