COVID-19, health sector & sustainable development: How the pandemic has affected the development in the health sector

The year 2020 has brought severe challenges to the world. One of the most disastrous epidemics that the world has faced in the past century perhaps is the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. It is improbable that anybody on this earth has ever faced similar circumstances before in their lives. Gaining its existence from Wuhan in China, it created havoc by affecting almost the whole of the world. The pandemic is caused by a virus known as SARS-CoV-2. The virus belongs to a family of viruses that is responsible for many respiratory diseases in human beings. The virus has reportedly originated from bat populations, specifically from Rhinolophus. The mode of infection transmission, as well as the adaptability of novel coronavirus to human cell receptors, has resulted in tremendous speed in infecting human beings globally. The condition in countries with the most developed healthcare sector, like the US and Italy, is not unknown to the world. It is essential to know how the world will deal with the after-effects of the pandemic. Will the world be the same? It becomes crucial to think about how the world will be functional, what path would the world politics take as it becomes essential for the countries to coordinate with each other. What steps would the governments take to deal with the economic shutdown? It is much relevant to ask an answer to these questions in the current scenario.

The COVID-19 pandemic can be viewed as the reflection of society's current mindset. The current society, before the pandemic, could never have imagined of any such epidemic causing such great harm to the society. Even with a significant development that the healthcare sector has achieved considering the modern technological advancement in healthcare machinery, medical geniuses have raised their arms in search of a cure to the pandemic as of the current situation. It becomes mandatory to turn in the direction of available progress in the healthcare sector. Indeed, the virus has led to a realization where the world needs to think about going back and revising our necessary healthcare precautions. The virus is solely responsible for thousands of deaths on the planet. As of now, there is no cure for COVID-19 disease, and no vaccination exists to prevent coronavirus transmission. The Sustainable Development Goals set by The United Nations are to be completed by the year 2030. The core spirit behind these goals is that 'No one should be left behind' & 'Development for all'. The key idea behind setting these sustainable development goals is to achieve the best possible world for the betterment of the people and also taking account of the environment and ecology. Has this pandemic delayed the goals, or will the people of the world still achieve them? This answer perhaps is dependent on how the world will respond to the epidemic.

The pandemic has taught us – 'We are all vulnerable if some of us are'. 'Touch One Touch All'. Everything is connected to everything else. The pandemic has taught us that we should not try to disturb the elements of nature and always try to play fair (fair for everyone and our planet). This message is needed to be understood for sustainably shaping future societies. It leads to a further issue which is equally important as is the response to the pandemic – 'How to organize a society with a motive of care for all'. One needs to understand that the response to the pandemic would reflect the society that we the people of world desire.

There are some issues which are serving as stoppage towards the desired global society. Privatization of health is a serious concern. Many in the field of medical care look for privatization. Illness is treated as a way of earning more profits. If there will not be any illness, then there would not be any profit for such organizations. The growing divide between the private sector and the public sector is always of concern. The private healthcare sector costs much more than the public healthcare sector for the same treatment of a disease. Corporate power, protection and patriarchy in the sector are also a concern in dealing with issues. The sustainable target for healthcare is to get 45 doctors, nurses, and midwives per 10000 population by 2030. The healthcare expenditure and investment in the sector are among the lowest in India as compared to other equivalent countries. Consequently, only 14 doctors and related medical persons are found per 10000 population in India. Sustainable development and spread of the growth to every section of society is essential. Inequality and injustice that exists in society is a massive block that stops the spread of an even growth in society. The privatization of the health sector is also a result of such inequalities. There is an immediacy to respond to various issues such as social inequality, gender injustice which are the root causes of more significant social problems that are prevalent in society.

Society needs to solve issues and serve demands in order to succeed in forming a society with care for all. The purpose of a nation's economy is to serve the public good, public health and social care. There is a need for large scale investment possible in the commons. Be it healthcare sector, education, public transport, research, energies or public space, every section of society building blocks needs an investment in the public sector. This step will facilitate easy access to facilities for all the members of society. Energy democracy will prove to be a practical step towards environment protection. Eliminating patent protection on medicines, treatments and medical technologies would be a step towards strengthening the public sector. Just wages for formal and informal workers, redistribution of economic resources, recognizing unpaid work, agroecological food systems, food sovereignty, promotion of trade rules supporting public policies, global tax reforms and democratic reforms are some essential demands of time that would help in shaping the desired society.

The world is on the verge of an emergency, though temporary. Nevertheless, we need to realize the looming threat of permanent emergency because of the brewing climate crisis. There is an urgent need to come together and introduce measures that will help in combining efforts and come out of the problem successfully. The question again remains the same. Though these measures would help in solving the problem to some extent, the truth lies in the womb of time.

(Shashwat Chourasiya is studying in Indian Institute of Management (IIM) in Indore, India and is part of the internship at CNS (Citizen News Service) currently)

Published in:
  • CNS