Can CSR initiatives provide better access to healthcare in India?
CSR initiatives can become the frontier of healthcare innovation by fortifying infrastructural capabilities and enabling innovation through private-sector funding.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) refers to the responsibility of business institutions to work towards the betterment of the communities around them and society at large. Since the advent of the CSR law in 2014, the Indian business landscape has taken major steps towards becoming more responsible, with CSR acting as a leading indicator for how stakeholders expect organisations to operate.
A corporate's outreach initiatives need to be closely affiliated with its business model. They need to be deliberate and sustainable to be effective. The company needs to demonstrate value to its employees, stakeholders, and consumers, in addition to the communities it operates in. For corporate philanthropy to be successful in the long run, CSR must become a vital strategic priority for businesses.
The healthcare sector in India can immensely benefit from CSR support. It was announced last year that corporates in India had spent as much as Rs 6,947 crore on healthcare activities in FY2020–21, including towards COVID–19 relief. While companies have adapted rapidly to the current health, economic, and social needs, the greater impact comes from investing in medium- or long-term commitments such as the healthcare framework.
Private hospitals may offer first-rate care, but they are beyond the reach of most of our citizens. Public hospitals might be affordable but they are overcrowded. Despite the significant leaps and bounds taken towards increasing the country’s average life expectancy as well as decreasing infant mortality, the pandemic threw into sharp relief the heightened urgency to resolve "foundational" challenges such as healthcare, education, climate change, and inequality.
Attempts to achieve universal access to quality healthcare and address preventive awareness have been short-term and shallow. CSR initiatives can become the frontier of healthcare innovation by fortifying infrastructural capabilities and enabling innovation through private-sector funding.
Achieving holistic and successful social change is beyond the scope of a single organisation. With the healthcare system in India posing a gargantuan challenge, joining hands with the government and like-minded organisations would be required to bring about meaningful change. Partnerships among corporates result in greater innovation, the creation of replicable models, and the opportunity to leverage the strengths and skill sets of each company. Collaboration would allow companies to go beyond their singular capabilities to benefit society from combined intelligence.
As we take our first steps into a post-pandemic phase of recovery, CSR has become more prominent than ever before. To channel giving back effectively, we need to strategically shift our focus towards collaborative CSR. Some of the elements that can trigger those changes are:
- Primary healthcare: Primary healthcare covers the broadest range of healthcare services. It is our first line of defence against disease and has the highest bearing on the overall cost of healthcare. This is also one of the most fertile areas to absorb innovative technology and delivery models to solve most incidents with reduced clinical intervention and physical hospital visits. Dedicating CSR funding to boosting our primary healthcare response system is vital to supporting efforts to make healthcare accessible to all. With a focus on wellness, nutrition, and mental health, interventions and early detection models can improve basic health and facilitate the necessary focus on hygiene and sanitation among citizens.
- Secondary care infrastructure: Investing in technology-enabled clinical interventions and workflow can provide access to affordable, quality secondary care infrastructure. Through the use of modern technology and digital tools, healthcare facilities can be made accessible even in the most remote areas of the country. Investment in such infrastructure, especially from companies with manufacturing plants and distribution reach in Tier II and Tier III locations, will help foster better and healthier communities.
- Healthcare financing: Supporting a pool of funds from CSR that could be used to co-fund or partially fund insurance programmes for our middle- and low-income populations will drastically reduce the health cost burden on society.
- Skilling: There is a sense of urgency to recruit and upskill India’s healthcare workforce. CSR can support various skilling programmes that can use technology as a means to serve. This will also help with upskilling the existing stream of healthcare resources to deliver services through assisted technology models. We can achieve our objective of creating inclusiveness by using innovative technology models.
CSR, led by purpose-driven organisations, can play an enormous role in addressing our healthcare system’s critical challenges. When developing a CSR strategy and choosing projects, companies should advocate for and enable sustainable development for our nation at large. There is a lot of scope for companies to help our citizens live healthier and more fulfilling lives; they just need to identify the right channels and harness their funding more effectively. It is time for CSR to change the future of healthcare in the country.
Edited by Kanishk Singh
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)