The Role of India s Private Sector to Address Nutritional Gaps Health Concerns

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Whether it is food security, developing a vaccine or fulfilling nutritional needs, India’s private sector can play a significant role to turn things around in the healthcare space. Take COVAXIN for example. Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) collaborated with Bharat Biotech to develop an indigenous COVID-19 vaccine that has shown 81% efficacy rate. The vaccine is being used to follow a massive vaccination drive in India which aims to vaccinate 300 million people by July 2021. This reflects the potential, private companies can bring into the public health setup. While private-public partnerships can go a long way to address ever-mounting health concerns, the private sector alone carries immense potential to make public health better.

New-age Nutraceutical Brands Bridging India’s Nutritional Gaps

Indians are increasingly getting driven towards preventive healthcare, which is a market largely disrupted by new-age nutraceutical brands. These brands bring traditional medicinal practices on the shelf with a diverse range of herbal, Ayurvedic, and superfood supplements to fulfill the modern-day nutritional needs of people. The idea to fulfill nutrition and boost immunity on the go has made this particular sector of market a big setup which is estimated to go up to INR 650 billion by 2022. This establishes it as a fully grown sector and not merely a subsidiary of pharmaceuticals. With people in India having lesser time for self-care, following irregular eating habits, and facing absence of required nutrition through food, regular nutraceutical supplementation has become pretty much a part of their daily routine, enabling them to prevent sickness, better general being and be more effective with their fitness regimes and sporting activities.

The Advent of Online Healthcare Services

While serious health conditions certainly need doctors in physical proximity along with hospital services, in the last five years, people have shifted to online health consultation for general health concerns. Coupled with this, digital classes for yoga, meditation, and overall fitness have also seen an increasing upsurge. The COVID-imposed lockdown saw new-age brands successfully leverage technology to enable people at home practice physical activities and stay fit. The trend is likely to grow with many people still reluctant going back to their gyms.

Private Sector Holds Better Technical Knowhow & Infrastructure

India being a highly populous country has a multidimensional range of health concerns, many of which are solved by products of companies operating in the private sector and private hospitals. It is because of their burgeoning technical knowhow, R&D & infrastructural facilities, and the ability to use economies of scale to their advantage. Let’s again use India’s COVID-19 journey for instance. From only one testing laboratory being built soon after the first COVID-19 case was reported in India, the country today houses 1191 private laboratories against the government’s 1225 labs to support a massive test drive. Moreover, with rapid advancement in technology, the private sector in India has pushed the country to become a global hub for transformation in healthcare, leveraging technologies like Artificial Intelligence.

The Way Forward

While the contribution of the private sector in India’s healthcare spectrum is poised to grow, there are challenges of scaling up, capital deficit, and sustainable demand generation. However, as we move forward, the government needs to give private sector comprehensive financial support, incentivize health companies & hospitals for expansion in rural areas, align private healthcare sectors with public health goals, and also include private healthcare services in its healthcare schemes, ensuring essential healthcare services easily reach those in need. 

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