Rewiring India’s healthcare ecosystem for wellness


In most modern societies, we have approached health primarily from a healing perspective, seeking help only when symptoms visibly impair our ability to function, rather than making consistent efforts to ensure our well-being. A recent report by ASSOCHAM indicates that the incidence of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in India is highest among the 26-59 age group, who are also the most active contributors and thus the backbone of India.

Additionally, the emergence of mass communicable diseases, as we have seen with COVID, is overwhelming an already strained healthcare system, rendering it unable to cope and manage a population as large as ours. The only sustainable path is to shift from a “disease”- to a “wellness”-centric approach to health, which aims to improve people’s overall quality of life by protecting them from disease and helping them better cope with disease.

Rise of the health-conscious consumer

We must acknowledge the change we are seeing in people’s attitudes towards their health in India. The pandemic has made us more conscious of how we choose our lifestyle to optimize our health. That sentiment is quantified by a Mintel survey showing that around 50% of Indians have been eating healthier and exercising more than before during the pandemic.

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This evolving consumer interest has been complemented by increased activity in the health and wellness industry through the launch of sophisticated fitness trackers, the launch of multiple immune-boosting and nutrition-focused products by small businesses and FMCG giants, and so on. The rise of gamification in healthcare has given us the power to better control our health outcomes, guiding us towards our fitness goals, providing us with real-time simplified information about our health, providing easy access to qualified practitioners, and prompting us to to stick to their recommendations. Today, most companies are also actively promoting employee well-being by enacting wellness policies like access to mental health and nutrition consultants, virtual yoga classes, and more. As a community, we are increasingly gravitating toward concepts such as holistic wellness, sound bathing, wellness retreats, etc. to nourish our bodies and minds.

Auroville, India is a good example of a community rooted in wellness through its focus on sustainable living and people’s cultural, environmental, social and spiritual needs. While it’s obvious there has been a definite shift, this has been limited to a niche audience. So how can we spread the concept of good health and wellness across India?

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Raise awareness from the grassroots

First, we need to share health management know-how with communities through awareness programs and give them access to resources to enable them to adopt healthy lifestyles through regular checkups, healthy ingredients, and fitness-related activities. For example, the surge we are seeing in specialty nutrition products needs to be made more accessible and affordable for people across the country.

Partnerships with key stakeholders

The government’s progressive health programs such as Ayushman Bharat and the Fit India movement are exemplary initiatives driving the wellness drive. It would be imperative for industry players to seek opportunities that would allow them to partner with the government to implement ambitious and large-scale programs. Their pool of innovative minds and solutions, as well as their collective reach to end users, can meaningfully amplify such efforts. Effective implementation of Ayushman Bharat will cover nearly 40% of the poorest and most vulnerable populations, giving them better access to treatments, improving health and productivity, and enhancing the overall quality of life.

In addition, it is critical that we address the external causes of chronic disease. For example, air pollution is a major contributor to respiratory diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma. Taking climate action must be the responsibility of everyone involved, from large corporations to individuals who need to work together to reduce pollution.

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Expand ecosystem thinking

Finally, it is crucial to nurture our nation’s thinkers and innovators to create ingenious solutions and models for expanding prevention and early detection. Favorable policies, incentives, and launch pads will help bring their ideas to fruition and greatly help increase the wellness boost that we’re actually already seeing from the boom in health tech startups.

I believe India is at a stage where there is both the willingness and the means to rewire our healthcare ecosystem around the principles of well-being. The collective momentum to enforce this will be a key factor in bringing about this revolution. After all, a state of well-being is not just the ability to survive, but the power to thrive—as individuals, as a community, and as a nation.



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Disclaimer

The views expressed above are the author’s own.



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