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Need to strengthen, invest in public health infrastructure: Rockefeller Foundation

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The Rockefeller Foundation has recently awarded a grant to the Bengaluru-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms (C-CAMP) to anchor the indigenisation of diagnostics programme for scaling up manufacture of high-quality reagents, components, and other critical raw materials to enable domestic production of RT-PCR kits that are needed for detection of novel coronavirus.

In an email interaction with The Indian Express, Deepali Khanna, Managing Director at Asia Regional Office of the Rockefeller Foundation why it was important to invest in India’s public health system.

Government should consider data driven public health programmes

It has been encouraging to see the Indian government’s focus on the intersection of health and technology to improve its health systems. The COVID-19 pandemic has also manifested the need for health systems strengthening, so the Government should consider data-driven public health programmes. We trust that this budget will be used in the most optimal way to respond to the pandemic.

The Foundation’s Precision Public Health initiative with footprints in India has already demonstrated the need for such intervention and the phenomenal impact that can be created through predictive analytics. This can serve as a valuable blueprint for the government to design and scale interventions to address pressing health challenges.

Foundation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in India

RF entered into meaningful partnerships and encouraged innovation-driven solutions to scale up testing across the country. We worked closely with the Principal Scientific Advisor’s Office and C-CAMP to secure indigenous capabilities for the production of RT-PCR kits. Simultaneously, RF partnered with PATH to support state governments to develop and deploy replicable, scalable, and optimized testing strategies.

RF has also convened an expert advisory panel to create future-oriented recommendations to achieve equitable, cost-effective and scalable testing that dovetails into the country’s vaccination plan for the government.

Biggest challenges in the coming months

As we grapple with a once-ingeneration pandemic, we must strengthen our national public health infrastructure by making investments and put equity at the core of our response to such challenges. India has launched the largest vaccination drive, and the government’s resolve is evident from their immaculate planning, tested preparedness and seamless execution so far.

In anticipation of high volume inoculation in the future, the country could benefit from collaboration with diverse stakeholders – including philanthropies like RF – for embedding a culture of innovation and mentorship, data-driven frameworks and critical financing. The country must also continue to prioritize testing, tracing, masks, hand hygiene and social distancing norms continue to be prioritized.

Foundation’s vision for supporting development in India

The Foundation is committed to investing in innovative solutions to transform the lives of people across India. In pursuit of that, RF is working in the space of decentralized renewable energy to support last-mile electrification in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and Jharkhand. For healthcare, besides the partnerships forged to respond to COVID-19 crisis, RF is supporting efforts in new technologies to accelerate preparedness against current and future pandemic and response capabilities.


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