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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

A vision for healthcare

Transforming healthcare requires smart policy and infrastructure

Update : 28 Feb 2024, 12:38 PM

The "Smart Bangladesh Vision 2041" (SBV) stands as a beacon of ambition, aspiring to propel Bangladesh towards a future of digital efficiency, economic prosperity, and social inclusivity. Within it, healthcare emerges as a crucial component, promising a fundamental shift towards universal access and improved well-being for all citizens. 

“Smart Society,” one of the four pillars of the vision, presupposes a population empowered by robust health. A healthy citizenry is not only physically capable, but also intellectually and emotionally prepared to contribute to the nation's social and economic progress. Conversely, neglecting healthcare leads to a domino effect of diminished productivity, increased social costs, and a stunted national potential.

The current healthcare landscape in Bangladesh boasts undeniable progress. Life expectancy has risen, infant mortality rates have declined, and the reach of primary healthcare services has expanded. However, disparities persist -- geographical, socioeconomic, and gender-based inequalities limit access to quality healthcare for significant segments of the population. Rural communities often grapple with a shortage of qualified medical professionals and the distance to specialized care. Low-income families struggle to afford necessary treatment, while women face specific challenges navigating healthcare systems.

The SBV seeks to dismantle these barriers through a multi-pronged approach. Telemedicine emerges as a powerful tool, bridging geographical divides and connecting even the remotest villages to a network of qualified doctors. Wearable technology and remote monitoring systems can empower individuals to actively participate in their health management.

Big data and artificial intelligence offer further opportunities for revolutionizing healthcare. By analyzing health records and trends, AI-powered algorithms can predict disease outbreaks, identify high-risk individuals, and even personalize treatment plans. AI holds immense potential in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare delivery, ensuring quicker diagnosis, targeted interventions, and ultimately, better health.

Technological advancements alone are not enough. The success of the SBV hinges on a comprehensive approach that addresses infrastructure, human resources, and policy frameworks. Robust internet connectivity throughout the country is vital for telemedicine to flourish. Building the necessary digital infrastructure requires sustained investment and public-private partnerships. 

Fostering a skilled workforce of healthcare professionals trained in utilizing these new technologies is crucial. Medical Colleges and public health institutions need to adapt their curricula to prepare doctors and nurses for the demands of a data-driven healthcare system.

Data privacy and security must be prioritized, ensuring individuals' trust and willingness to participate in this digital transformation. Financial models and equitable access to technology and healthcare services must be guaranteed, particularly for vulnerable populations. In tandem with technological advancements, these policy decisions will determine the inclusivity and sustainability of the SBV.

The challenges to achieving universal health care are not insignificant. Bangladesh's vast geography, diverse population, and historical inequities present a complex tapestry of needs. Rural communities often lack access to qualified medical professionals and well-equipped facilities. The urban poor face financial constraints and inadequate infrastructure. And across all socioeconomic strata, awareness about preventative care and chronic disease management remains a hurdle.

Recognizing technology as a crucial enabler in healthcare delivery does provide a glimmer of hope. However, building a robust healthcare system requires a multi-pronged approach, one that prioritizes:

  • Investment in infrastructure: Expanding and upgrading healthcare facilities, particularly in rural areas, is crucial. This includes ensuring adequate supply of essential medications and equipment, and investing in medical research and development.
  • Human resource development: Attracting and retaining qualified healthcare professionals, especially in underserved areas, is essential. This requires competitive salaries, continuous professional development opportunities, and improved working conditions.
  • Empowering communities: Community-based healthcare programs, led by trained local health workers, can play a vital role in promoting preventative care, managing chronic diseases, and raising awareness about health issues.
  • Financial accessibility: Universal health insurance schemes are key to ensuring that financial constraints do not become barriers to care. Innovative financing mechanisms, such as public-private partnerships, can be explored to ensure affordability and sustainability.

The SBV demands a shift in mindset -- from viewing healthcare as a reactive service to a proactive investment. It necessitates a focus on preventative measures, early intervention, and disease management. This proactive approach will not only reduce the burden on hospitals, but also foster a healthier, more productive population.

The true measure of success will be the transformative impact on the lives of ordinary Bangladeshis. The promise of the SBV is to build a more equitable, resilient, and healthier future for all of Bangladesh. Bridging the digital divide, ensuring affordability and accessibility of internet connectivity and digital devices, is paramount. Digital literacy programs must empower individuals, especially those in vulnerable communities, to navigate the intricacies of digital healthcare platforms.

The responsibility for achieving this vision lies not only with the government but also with the private sector, NGOs, and civil society organizations. The journey towards this promising future requires collective effort. 

By embracing innovation, fostering collaboration, and prioritizing inclusivity, we can ensure that healthcare becomes the true pillar of a smart, equitable, and thriving Bangladesh. The SBV may be ambitious, but the potential rewards -- a healthier, happier, and more prosperous nation -- are worth striving for. 

 

Md Ashikur Rahman and Anupom Sarker are freelance contributors and postgraduate students in Public Administration and Governance Studies at Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University.

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