08 JUN,2020 | MEDC
The sheer scale and severity of the pandemic has prompted the government to speed up the implementation of the National Digital Health Blueprint (NDHB). This aims to create a single repository of medical records of all Indian citizens. The NDHB was prepared by a health ministry panel to create a framework for the national health stack proposed in 2018 by the NITI Aayog. It was stuck for more than two years over various issues, but expedited and approved by the government due to the pandemic situation. This has not come a day too soon. India has now emerged as a Covid-19 hotspot, and unless we urgently create a virus repository with genomic data, we run the risk of not being able to accurately map the picture of our infectious diseases burden. In tackling pandemics like Covid-19, a rapid response is going to be critically important and bioinformatics will play a key role in this. No doubt, the prolonged lockdown is helping policymakers buy time for some socioeconomic experimentation, but their efforts need to be simultaneously complemented with India’s world-class IT prowess in mining infectious diseases data to crack the genetic code of pandemic causing viruses. The current crisis has reiterated the fact that quality research in healthcare and the life sciences is a key global opportunity for a country like India. At the root of all this is the development of a world-class database that can be tapped into at any time and from any place by any authorized individual (or institution) across the country. Obviously, the database will need to be continually updated and retain its focus on biotechnology, life sciences, and healthcare. All states are at different levels in the development of their healthcare infrastructure, and such an initiative will help maintain a certain basic minimum standard throughout the country. Of course, there will be concerns about the unauthorized access of records, but that is an IT related issue which should not be allowed to come in the way of the development of the larger database system. The lives and wellbeing of millions of Indians depends on how well we can organize and utilize data for nation-building activities. This is also a way to realize our inherent connection with all of nature and work towards enhancing our collective consciousness. A microscopic virus has brought the whole world to its knees, and we need to have the intellectual humility to acknowledge it.
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