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Lessons from COVID-19: Need for universal healthcare and socio-economic equality

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Lessons from COVID-19: Need for universal healthcare and socio-economic equality

Neha Mazumdar

Health is a fundamental human right and essential right if we are to deliver on sustainable development
Health is a fundamental human right and essential right if we are to deliver on sustainable development
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COVID-19 was first detected in India on 30 January 2020, the same day when the World Health Organization had formally declared a public health emergency of international concern. Since then, the number of cases in our country has risen exponentially, inching towards 10 million. To gain a better understanding of this pandemic and why it has affected our country so heavily, we reached out to Shobha Shukla and Bobby Ramakant of CNS. Bobby feels that although COVID-19 has had significant negative impacts, it has brought the need for better healthcare policies to the forefront.

learning from history and past experiences

India's failure to learn from its mistakes is one of its biggest challenges. Let's consider 2 examples to further elucidate this point - the first being tuberculosis (TB).

India has been battling with TB for many centuries. Despite having scientifically assured processes for diagnosis, prevention and treatment, India still has a large number of recurring cases each year (2.69 Million in 2019 (TB Statistics India, 2019)) as well as untimely deaths due to TB. When TB is preventable and curable, then how can we explain it to be the world's top infectious disease killer?

The lessons we learnt from TB should have highlighted the need for better distribution networks for healthcare, other obstacles that prevent people from accessing care, especially keeping the national goal of ending TB by 2025 in mind. These lessons will be extremely crucial when it is time to roll out the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as, for ending TB.

The second example is that of HIV and the forgetfulness of the rights-based approach which was used by those living with HIV to push for health as a human right. This approach helped the HIV community-led movements as well as other groups struggling to get a voice e.g. sex workers, LGBTIQ+ movements (Krishnan, 2018) etc. Similar rights-based approach could be and should be adopted when demanding equitable healthcare during COVID-19.

Bobby's example of Thailand from his days of working with the HDN help to appreciate the opposite case. Thailand is an exemplary case of how COVID-19 should be handled and has received praise from WHO (Thaiger, 2020). Bobby believes that Thailand's investment in the 30 Baht scheme and their important decision with a foresight to increase healthcare investment in smaller towns and villages while simply maintaining the standards in bigger cities during economic recession several decades back, has put them in a suitable position to offer universal health coverage in present day. Whether it be heart disease, TB or HIV Thailand has not held back and sustained progressive scientific voices. This layering of groundwork and learning from past mistakes has helped them handle the COVID-19 crisis a lot better.

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Citizen News Service (CNS) specializes in in-depth and rights-based, health and science journalism. For more information, please contact: www.citizen-news.org or @cns_health or www.facebook.com/cns.page
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