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Healthcare event highlights needs and interventions for CSR to fund

A significant proportion of the population in India, particularly in rural areas keep running from pillar to post for access to healthcare. They visit a number of doctors through the public health system that keeps no record of their past ailments. To avoid these inefficiencies, he approaches a private hospital too late to realize that he already harbors multiple diseases that require expensive treatment.

The public healthcare system has become a place of mistrust amongst the public and the alternative is often reserved for the elite. According to the Economic Survey 2013, expenditure on a percentage of GDP after more than 60 years of independence is a mere 4.1% leading to high out of pocket expenses for the public. Other studies show that 46% of India’s children are malnourished, and only 28% of the population has access to two-thirds of our healthcare services and infrastructure.

Samhita helps people and organizations “do good better” by creating symbiotic relationships between those who are bringing about change on the ground and those who have the means and resources to enable that change. The Companies Act opens doors to a wide range of sectors for the companies to divert their CSR funds into; healthcare is one of them. Identifying this potential, Samhita Social Ventures organized a conference ‘CSR in healthcare – Making it work’, at U.S Consulate General, Mumbai on December 12, 2013. The objective of the event was to assist companies to play a larger role in socially relevant healthcare interventions.

Thirty two people from 25 leading companies such as Pfizer, Sunpharma, Strides Arcolab, SBI Mutual Funds, Glenmark, Godrej and BSE attended the conference. There was also considerable participation from leading foundations and aid organizations such as Central Square Foundation, USAID, Wockhardt Foundation and DFID. The participants hailed from a variety of sectors such as health, finance, infrastructure, corporate foundations, and, media houses bringing in a number of people with a diverse experience in their respective sectors.

In his opening presentation, N. Krishnan, Managing Director of Samhita Social Ventures, provided a bird’s eye view of the healthcare sector, broadly explained the revamped Companies Act and stressed on the need of companies’ intervention in the field of healthcare. The keynote speech was delivered by John A Beed, Mission Director of USAID/India, who helped companies understand the healthcare landscape in India. Beed emphasized on public-private partnership models and community-led efforts as the most suitable approaches for CSR interventions in the healthcare sector. He also discussed major challenges faced by companies in the Indian context.

All participants got familiar with the most effective models of intervention for CSR in healthcare through an interactive panel discussion and a series of presentations by leading experts from the healthcare sector. The entire session was moderated by Dr. Sujata Kelkar Shetty, scientist and immunologist with post-doctoral training from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD. Shetty is a wellness expert and writes a regular health column ‘Wellness Sutra’ for Mint.

The series of presentations began with Dr. Zeena Johar, President, IKP Centre for Technologies in Public Health (ICTPH), MD & CEO at SughaVazhvu Healthcare (SVHC) focusing on organizing primary healthcare and integrating it with higher levels of healthcare and demonstrated the same through her organization’s work. Paresh Parasnis, Head of Piramal Foundation emphasized on the use of technology as an effective way of dealing with health issues and inspired the audience to adopt approaches that are sustainable as well as scalable. Through her extensive knowledge and experience, Dr. Duru Shah, Scientific Director, Gynaec World and the Gynaec World Assisted Fertility Center emphasised on the need of interventions in the field of reproductive and sexual health especially through awareness campaigns.  The talk with Dr. Devi Shetty, Chairman and Founder, Narayana Health, carried an underlying message of how India should disassociate healthcare from affluence.

A panel discussion was held where the potential areas in healthcare requiring CSR funds were identified. The discussion also highlighted challenges faced by companies while partnering with the government or the public sector in general.

In the final session, the audience was presented with a broad framework of CSR strategy designed by Samhita Social Ventures. An interactive had the audience working on a hypothetical case study, thereby gaining a hands-on insight on how to approach a CSR issue, choose a cause, arrive at an intervention and drive consensus among different opinions.

The event was a combination of theoretical frameworks, practical case studies, and sharing of personal experiences by the speakers. Every member in the audience left equipped with a better understanding of the healthcare space, its core needs and a robust framework to approach the issue. The event also served as a great networking platform for both individual and institutional experts and those who wished to join the bandwagon in the future.