Post the LPG (no, not the gas! Liberalisation Privatisation Globalisation reforms of the 1990s) phenomenon in India, the first couple of decades of the 21st Century promise to become a watershed period for not just India but at a larger worldwide level. Though the cross culture traditions have been formed since Homo sapiens began exploring newer lands and peoples; interacting, conflicting, displacing and assimilating became loquacious verbs to mankind. Over thousands of years, like the Darwin’s theory suggests, we’ve evolved, we’ve fought to survive and who we are and what we do, the way we live and the way we source our living from Nature has helped us make it to this day. And so shall we survive, as long as we strive to be the fittest.
Twelfth century and on we saw an array of kingdoms setting on an endeavor to what is called the Voyages of Discoveries. Through to the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, colossal campaigns, some state-commissioned others privately sourced, were arranged for to discover new lands, peoples and cultures. Such interactions led to the pivotal exchange of knowledge, which made these voyages also ‘intellectual’ voyages of discovery. Imperialism and Colonization in the consequent centuries became significant repertoires of this very exchange. But by now matters of exchanges weren’t restricted to goods, lands and peoples. It also included finer details such as food tastes, religion, etiquettes, diseases and hygiene and sanitation.
In the twentieth century, many nation states came up as territories were carved out in a much stronger manner with laws, rights and constitutions coming in place which meant more consciousness about the culture and heritage of both what constituted within as well as outside a nation. Such sense of awareness was complimented by the need for improvement of facilities and resources for poverty, illiteracy, health and hygiene, especially in the developing countries, which constituted of two countries which had the largest population in the world namely, China and India.
India has been considered to have the oldest civilization in the world, which also adds to its credit a long trajectory of civilisational history of surviving through the ages.
Though India has been in a respectable position as a country with a rich heritage of medicine, science and mathematics, it has been subjected to much discrimination having being a colony till very late until the 1940s. India even now cannot boast of having excellent facilities in the realm of medical and hygiene services, though we are proud to announce ourselves to be a favorite tourist destination in the world. We lack proper resource management and infrastructure which are absolutely essential for tackling medical challenges and adversities that come. However, Indian doctors are respected worldwide for the innovations and breakthroughs they come up with despite the problems of finance or complicated illnesses.
I have been part of the Make Poverty History campaign in India which is a project under the Millennium Development Goals signed by nations with the United Nations. Did you know that the resource allocation of the GDP(Gross Domestic Product) for health and hygiene is Less than 1%? The plans under MDG is to increase that to 3%, however the only significant increase seems to be going to Defence! Basically, the policy-makers want a strong defence for a population that’d die of medical illnesses rather than bombs!
Intelligent planning, eh?
The problem is also with the drug manufacturers who do not seem to be interested in intensive research in medicines and sciences, considering we have had one of the oldest forms of medicinal sciences in the form of Ayurveda and Unani. The capitalistic motives of the economists of the nation have given a setback to the welfare motive of the society, the nationalist leaders had once envisaged for India.
Nonetheless, there have been significant advancements and breakthroughs which earns credit for the Indian medical practitioners and researchers. Below are some significant areas where I believe, India has managed an impressive standing in the world and there, that is what our hope is.
CARDIAC SURGERY- ROLE OF ROBOTICS AND TRANSPLANTS
Dr.Naresh Trehan, a well known cardiac surgeon had worked on several complicated surgeries such as repairing of heart valve as well as holes, coronary artery bypass, artery grafting. Under him, cardiac surgeries got a path-breaking lead as Dr.Trehan pioneered the technique of robotic cardiac surgery in 2002 which promised not just efficient and easier surgeries but also effective and quicker healing for the patients.
Such robotic treatments have now been revolutionized and used in surgeries such as organ transplants such as kidney and liver transplants, the first of which was performed in 2011 by Dr.A.Soin. In fact, such transplants have seen a high success rate in the last couple of years under specialists who have done years of research to bring about significant changes in medical implementation of such complex techniques.
While the mechanization is an innovative foot forward, what holds back is the specific training it requires for a doctor to undertake. In a nation which suffers from lack of hospitals and doctors, having such expensive machines, robots as well as trained doctors seems blurry.
In fact, even the coronary artery graft has been a new development, with the first grafting been done by Dr.K.Cherian in the 1980s. Early detection procedures have been enhanced well over the years with the eco-cardiogram and Doppler tests revolutionized along with FFR or the Fractional Flow Reserve, which help in assessing signs of blockages and blood pressure levels accurately and efficiently. Furthermore, though surgeries help in clearing the blockages, there is no guarantee that an angioplasty or stents would be accepted by the heart and body and thus, doctors can now with the help of advanced machines like the FFR can analyse the levels of blood flow and whether a surgery is required or not. Sometimes, up till a certain amount of blockage, doctors nowadays suggest alternate medical treatments and therapies instead of a surgery.
This is a considerably major breakthrough considering reports from the WHO, suggest that more 16 million people die of heart strokes and attacks every year and strikingly, almost 75% of these patients are from developing countries!
Of course, like mentioned above, the finance is a major cause of concern considering that the FFR and other tests altogether cost more than 50,ooo INR, and this is only for the tests. The surgery if required has additional costs to bear. Thus, one needs to consider the availability and reach of these advanced medical practices in the rurale of India.
Did you know that more than 70, 000 people die of cervical cancer every year, if statistics presented by the AIIMS, Delhi are to be believed! However, there’s a reason why Indian doctors are respected worldwide. The Apollo Speciality Cancer Hospital in Chennai was the first to device what is known as the Cyberknife Technology, which is a radio surgical procedure under which the cancer-infected cells are targeted while the healthy cells remain unharmed from all the radio-active elements minimizing the damage to the healthy tissues. According to Dr.Reddy of the Apollo Speciality Cancer Hospital, the Cyberknife radio-surgical procedure has helped in the removal of tumors and treatment of the neck, liver, lungs and various organs of the body, thereby becoming a successful anti-cancer agent.
Not just treatment, but early detection of cancer can really help the patient to get the correct and proper treatment. Thus medical devices such as the BreastLight, Injection of hydroxyl-progesterone have been brought forth as the future of preventive measures for cancer as they are not just efficient but cost-effective as well. Mobility of such small devices are easier and their cost-effectiveness both, ensure their availability for the poor and needy. Innovative medicines such as the Polypill has been invented in India itself, which is a combination of four most commonly taken pills taken for Hypertension, Diabetes, etc. Considering that a patient who has diabetes suffers from other diseases such as hyper tension and statins, this tablet is cheap and easily available. Of course there are recent researches going on for controlling diabetes, and Diabetes-Type2 can be now controlled with the help of what is called the Key-hole Surgery, pioneered yet again by the medical practitioners in India.
Even with the huge population, it has been noticed in the young generation that while girls have early puberty and earlier menopauses, boys suffer from low sperm count. It is Dr. Krishnamoorthy that deserves a mention here, who performed the first microsurgical varicocelectomy in India and who developed a lot in the study of urological and sexual diseases.
No doubt, medical tourism in India has increased in the past few decades, with people from the more advanced developed countries coming in here to get their treatments done. Nonetheless, like every other sector, what is clearly missing is the Trickle-down Effect. According to a survey, getting medical treatments and surgeries in India are near-about 70-80% cheaper than it would be in the UK or USA. Dr.Debina, a doctor in Delhi agrees to the above-stated fact and concurs that medical tourism has increased in India and this would be the time when the Indian government should re-direct its focus in improving the health and hygiene in India, not just in the urban areas but the rural areas as well. Such standards cannot be compromised upon, warns Dr.Mukherjee, a specialist at the Lady Hardinge Hospital in Delhi for after all, falling sick due to uncouth living conditions would be the last thing on a patient’s mind traveling in a foreign land. Thus, if they fall sick, it would have direct consequences on medical tourism in India which then of course would have greater consequences in store for us as a nation, both in terms of goodwill as well as economy.
The other dire problem is the lack of advanced training, research and opportunities that leads to the ‘brain drain’ of our nation. The best of the lot of doctors, engineers leave the country to work in developed nations in search of better prospects and thus we lose out on a significant powerhouse of talent.
Modern medical services are nothing short of a miracle and the chances of our very existence seems bright with the fact that the life expectancy rate has increased from 42 years in 1960 to 65 years in 2011. (WorldDevelopment Data Indicator)
And like Einstein once said,
Miracle it is, but without the perseverance and goodwill, even miracles do not happen.While Medical Sciences has clearly been a boon to mankind, it is now for mankind to share it amongst itself, trickle it down to those in need. We may blame the government, the authorities, and rightly so...but it also is important for us to help each other in any way we can. Like I tried getting a little kid who lives in the slum in front of my home, admitted to a hospital in the capital of India, Delhi and after running from post to pillar, and due to a very kind doctor, I finally admitted her to a government hospital. And it was one exhausting journey that only made me reflect on the veracity of the so-called "availability" of services that our government offers us; but like an illusion, is something we never actually get. Sometimes because we do not have money and other times because we have no reference. Until these things change, how far can we as a civilisation thrive, even with all the medical facilities in the world?
Like the Beatles sang, Money can't buy me Love! Only Love can!
This post has been written under the topic-How Does Modern Healthcare touch lives by Apollo, in association with Indiblogger