Intensify private sector engagement to end malnutrition, drastically reduce stunting & wasting, and maternal & child mortality, by 2030
India is home to 1/3rd of the world’s stunted children. Four out of 10 children under 5 years of age are stunted (height-for-age), and 21 percent are wasted (weight-for-age). Malnutrition and undernutrition coexist with overweight and obesity, or diet-related noncommunicable diseases, exacerbating the depth of the challenge. Almost 23 percent of women and 20 percent of men have a below-normal body mass index. About 20 percent of women and men are overweight or obese.
The government’s aim is to reduce the infant mortality rate (IMR) from 37.9 deaths per 1,000 live births to 28 by 2019 (world IMR is 31.7) and to reduce the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) from 174 deaths per 10,000 live births to 100 by 2018-20. The current world MMR is 216. Mahila Shakti Kendras centres were set up to achieve these targets by providing support services to rural women in health and nutrition. Another initiative is the maternity benefit scheme, under which INR 6,000 is transferred directly to the bank accounts of pregnant women who opt for institutional deliveries and vaccinate their children. Still, public health expenditure as a share of the GDP is only 1.41 percent – the same as the South Asian average (1.37 percent) and substantially lower not only than the world average (5.99 percent) but also than sub-Saharan Africa (2.32 percent). However, the Government of India is committed to increasing public health expenditure to 2.5 percent of GDP by 2020.
Given India’s resources and the heavy burden of disease, as well as the size of its birth cohort, there is a major opportunity for innovative, nimble businesses to spark a digital revolution in healthcare. For instance, devices like Amazon’s Echo can guide users through CPR and answer health queries by plugging into an artificial intelligence-powered “virtual physician” platform. The private sector can also incubate start-ups that are creating apps, predictive diagnostics systems and new devices that are working on innovative solutions in the health care value chain, especially in under-serviced areas.
Reducing the productivity losses (estimated at 11 percent of the gross national product per year) caused by various forms of malnutrition, leading to a healthier workforce, is crucial to continued economic growth.
Potential Areas of Focus
There is plenty of untapped potential in the healthcare sector for products and services. The private sector can leverage their logistics, supply chain and marketing expertise to help improve health systems. Partnering with government agencies to efficiently deliver vital medicines and medical supplies, and marketing these supplies, would create demand and ensure last-mile availability of life-saving medicine. Companies can also ensure the right composition of nutrients in high-selling food products for non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, etc, and help caregivers make informed choices through appropriate consumer education and promotion of nutritious products.
- The group agreed that the overall concept of public health should encompass universal access, quality of services, awareness (health and nutrition, water and sanitation, hygiene), and last-mile access.
- Best practices and innovations, either from their own organisations or from the sector, were shared.
- The group set a goal to establish partnerships that can accelerate positive impact with strong private sector engagement, identifying the two areas with the most potential for partnership opportunities:
- Innovation in service delivery
- Communication / Awareness / Responsible marketing