Sustainable Steps For Healthy Communities
Anup Vikal, CFO, Head of Legal & CSR, Nayara Energy, talks about India’s nutrition journey as pandemic woes continue to cast a shadow on health services and delivery.
How has Covid-19 impacted India’s health and nutrition journey?
Covid-19 has indeed eclipsed the nation in more ways than one. The pandemic has mandated people to stay indoors. People are preferring home cooked meals, cutting down on junk food, as well as embracing healthier lifestyle choices like regular exercise and stress relieving techniques. The nutrition intake of children is focused upon too. The unavailability of mid-day meals has made families substitute the same with healthy home cooked meals. Recipe booklets are the reference point for coming up with a variety of dishes with limited ingredients. Immunity building has taken centrestage. Digital outreach has become the order of the day. Helplines and tele-calling services are being are being availed for physical and mental health.
What are the biggest challenges that lie before the health and nutrition delivery services?
India is a nation with a large population. Dependency on any one exclusive service delivery medium/mechanism is more likely to burn it out, besides making it grossly inadequate. The healthcare challenges can be summed up in 5As:
• Adequate manpower
Studies on awareness are diverse, but lacunae in awareness appear to cut across the lifespan in our country. A study in 2012 found that in rural areas, only 37% of people were able to access healthcare facilities within a 5-km distance. The further one lived from towns – the greater were accessibility related issues. Almost 75% of healthcare expenditure comes from the pockets of households, and catastrophic healthcare cost is a cause of impoverishment. Added to the problem is limited regulation in the private sector and variation in quality and costs of services. Thus, the complementary nature of public and private infrastructures must be given focus. Public infrastructure, which is more in quantum, gives better accessibility to people at the grass root level. Private infrastructure can deliver to the better-off section of the community. Private providers can tie up with CHCs/PHCs to provide low cost quality services in required areas; services like that of 108 Ambulance can cater to the urban areas.
Has the economic slowdown impacted the CSR initiatives? What steps has Nayara Energy taken to keep its projects rolling?
At Nayara Energy, the Board has allotted a budget over and above the existing one to cater to Covid-relief. Thus, no CSR initiatives are hampered. On a generic front, almost all the companies are working on Covid relief as well as contributing financially to it. The companies are also providing Covid-centric employee benefits in terms of additional insurance, advance payments, fundraising, supporting the education and healthcare of children. Change can also be seen with most of them embracing work from home as well as adding on to paid leaves. Times have been tough, but the measures taken for employee welfare and CSR are heartening.
Nayara Energy has been taking care of communities for a long time. What keeps you motivated?
Health and nutrition are long-term commitments that Nayara Energy has been working on, way before the pandemic struck. Programmes like Community Health and Tushti (since the last three years) have been instrumental in putting in place stringent mechanisms of preventive and curative healthcare, and connecting rural communities to round-the-clock healthcare services.
We have provided nutrition kits to TB patients, supplementing the efforts of the District As a part of Covid relief, we provided nutritious cooked meals to the truck drivers as well as the ones needing the same across communities. More recently, we have set up a Covid care centre in one of our villages, providing 24/7 healthcare services to patients reporting mild symptoms, also equipped with oxygen support, medication, and emergency ambulance services.
If we talk of Project Tushti, it’s the first of its kind in partnership with Government of Gujarat, with tailor made interventions that are implemented and monitored collaboratively. In this programme, we counsel pregnant and lactating mothers on health and nutrition, have a nutrition telecounseling centre in place for free of cost counseling services to communities across the district.
As a company we realize that situations like these, call for us to step up, and do more than what we would have done in ‘normal’ scenarios. The exceptional dedication and commitment of the frontline workers, even at the cost of their own health, continue to be a source of inspiration. Equally inspiring is the government, ensuring that the nation fights the battle against the pandemic without t compromising on lives.