By Arun Kumar
Washington : The US-India Business Council (USIBC) has launched a new initiative, Coalition for Healthy India (CHI), to improve access to healthcare in India, including access to the latest treatments and innovation.
"Access to effective and affordable healthcare is essential to ensure India's remarkable growth," USIBC President Ron Somers said Thursday while announcing the initiative of the body representing over 250 of the largest US firms investing in India and about 25 of India's largest global companies.
The initiative includes bolstering the protection of intellectual property and innovation, so that the best class of treatments and devices across the broad spectrum of healthcare challenges facing India are and remain available and accessible to the common man, he said.
It "intends to bring together the US and Indian business community, NGOs and medical professionals to coordinate and support improved access to healthcare in India, consistent with efforts being taken by the government of India as well as the corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes being pursued throughout India by the US and Indian private sector", Somers said.
CHI will concentrate on raising health standards, including the accreditation of healthcare facilities and penetration of health insurance coverage, with a particular emphasis on rural areas where more than 60 percent of Indians live and work.
Moreover, CHI will work collaboratively with other efforts underway in India to raise awareness about the scourge of HIV/AIDS, while promoting preventative measures and improving access to effective and affordable treatment regimes.
Somers said USIBC is concerned that a populist trend is taking hold in other countries towards compulsory licensing of pharmaceuticals – essentially expropriating intellectual property – that will rob these countries of access to the latest innovations in drugs and treatment programmes, leaving the citizens of these countries with poor access to outdated pharmaceuticals and treatment programmes.
"We don't want to see this retrograde trend adversely affecting India's healthcare system. The truth is that India has a stake in becoming part of the cutting edge in innovation and scientific research and discovery that will enable India to contribute to state-of-the-art healthcare in India and throughout the world," he said.
CHI will work towards fostering the creative environment necessary for India to assume its rightful place as a world-class leader in public health, he added.
Greg Kalbaugh, USIBC's director and counsel for intellectual property, will spearhead the CHI campaign. Kalbaugh is organising a broad coalition of like-minded think tanks, healthcare providers and industry and patient representatives from India and the US.
"Government is only part of the solution. We must harness the dynamism of the private sector for this effort to be successful. The goal is to make patient outcomes as good in India as they are in any other part of the world," Kalbaugh said.
USIBC will go online with its website for the Initiative (www.ahealthyindia.com) and announce its coalition partners at its Global India Summit in Washington June 26-27.