Preventive Healthcare in India: Trends & Opportunities

Working in tandem to create high decibel awareness even in remote parts of the country about preventive healthcare and its benefits is a must, writes Arjun Ananth, CEO, Medall Healthcare

About Author: Arjun Ananth, CEO, Medall Healthcare has a rich experience in business development, marketing, sales, mergers & acquisitions and supply chain from a wide spectrum of sectors ranging from consumer goods, automotive industrial and technology. A Chartered Accountant by profession with an MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business, Arjun brings over two decades of experience. Prior to assuming the role of CEO of Medall, Arjun was Portfolio Director at Peepul Capital Investment Advisors.

As the sun is about set on yet another year and as I settle down to pencil my thoughts on the topic, memories of my grandmother’s stories about her secrets to a healthy, ailment free life – like simple home-cooked nutritious food, stress-free life, sound sleep and daily hard work – came flooding back. And it made me pause for a moment and reflect on how health and wellness had traversed over these years we see today. Even to this day, in joint family households, simple grandmother’s solution like turmeric in milk, honey is a common sight. As children, we never realized the humble turmeric or the spices that dot our kitchen shelves are treasure troves for a healthy and strong future with loads of preventive health properties and immunity builders.
Over years, the emergence of nuclear families, double incomes, stress, long working hours, sedentary lifestyle and gastronomic exploration have led to a downward spiral of health and wellness. Ask anybody “have you done your annual health check-up”? And invariably the answer you would hear “no time”.
People went about their normal chores, weekend dining-out exploring various cuisines, getaways, etc, Weekend was the time to relax and unwind. Packaged foods became a hot favourite and started flying off the shop shelves. Everything seemed normal until 2020 when the world turned upside down with the iron fist of the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down everything and pushing people behind closed doors. “Immunity building”, “preventive healthcare” which had gone deep inside the cold storage suddenly assumed centre stage.
The preventive healthcare market in India was valued at INR 3.71 Tn in 2019 and is expected to reach INR 14.58 Tn by 2025, expanding at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27.30% during the 2020-2025 period. The second wave of the pandemic, which was more severe than the first wave was the much-needed shake-up in people to rush to take control of their health and build a strong and impregnable immunity which probably explains the steep growth foreseen for the preventive healthcare sector during the mentioned period.
As the pandemic situation continues to evolve on the one hand and as people engage more with the medical fraternity to take control of their health and wellness, on the other, it will be prudent to ask the moot question – “what stops people from undertaking preventive healthcare measures”? Well, a host of factors. The answer could be simple, but this is a fact. Among these, a few stand out, vividly.
  1. Perception: The assumption that “if I don’t have any health issues, I don’t need to go to any checkups or visit the doctor” is so deep-rooted that stops people from going in for a preventive checkup.
  2. Affordability: With India home to a vast population in the middle-income category, preventive health checkups are secondary on their list of priorities. Traditionally, if the assumption that going in for check-ups is an expensive proposition, the thought that a diagnostic facility or a doctor might pile up ‘needless additional tests’ is deeply etched in people’s mind preventing them to go for preventive healthcare.
  3. Accessibility: While metro and Tier 1 cities are a still shade better with many more options, availability of such centres in Tier 2 and 3 cities is still a far cry. There are far few such centres in these cities and towns that it is seen as an effort to undertake a long journey for a small thing as health check-up.
Together with these, the government expenditure towards ramping up infrastructure in remote cities and towns, creating impactful awareness about the preventive healthcare thereby creating a mindset change, promoting incentives for investment in research and development of new treatments and cost effective check-up facilities will go a long way in promoting preventive healthcare.
The way forward
A combination of these above-mentioned aspects presents an opportunity for better and vibrant health of the population. Come to think of it, the opportunities manifest themselves on two fronts – firstly at the individual level and secondly the health ecosystem and the government at large
If the popular saying “take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live” is anything to go by, then clearly, we as individuals have a significant role to play in ensuring an ailment-free life. So, what does it take to achieve this?
  1. Eating a well-balanced and nutritious diet: Watching what you eat clearly tops the list. Remember the famous saying “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. Non-fatty foods, foods rich in protein, fiber should be the first pick. Ditch carbs-loaded foods.
  2. Healthy, active lifestyle: Make exercises part of your daily regime. Allocate at least an hour for exercises of some sort – gymming, brisk walking/jogging, stretches. The objective is to get moving.
  1. Proper rest and stress management: Pages and pages have been written about the ill effects of depriving the body of adequate sleep and rest. 7-8 hours of undisturbed sleep is an absolute must. Stress is another factor that leads to many lifestyle disorders. Sleep and stress go hand-in-hand. Deprive the body of stress and the following day you have difficulty in using on things, find yourself stressed and the result: weight gain, obesity, diabetes, cardio vascular ailments….and the list goes on.
  2. Health checkups at regular intervals: Whether or not your body is sending out signals, a master health checkup at least once a year is a must, more so in today’s times to know if any alarm bells are on the horizon so that you can take corrective actions before it blows out of proportion.
Role of healthcare ecosystem and government
For people to come forward proactively and take control of their health, the healthcare ecosystem (comprising of hospitals, diagnostic centres) and the government have a significant role to play. Working in tandem to create high decibel awareness even in remote parts of the country about preventive healthcare and its benefits is a must. Last but not the least, the government should up their investments in healthcare and make it accessible. Most importantly, it must be made affordable so that it doesn’t pinch the pocket of the common man.

**Above views expressed by the author are his own.