Sunday, January 27, 2008

Michael O Leavitt

Michael O Leavitt, the US Secretary of Health, was in India to see for himself recent advancements in health care and the product facilities being developed. In an interview with ‘The Hindu’ he made two points worth pondering over.

Referring to the unsustainably high costs of health care in US ( in India too health care costs in the private sector is no different) he called for developing techniques to measure their quality and value. People should have access to information which enables them to compare the quality of health care they receive against its costs. In health care as in every other sector, says Mr.Leavitt, if people have information about the cost and quality, they will make choices that will drive the quality up and the costs down. A market based on value will emerge.

The second point he makes is on validating treatments and formulations from alternative and complementary systems of medicine. He says that the US National Institutes of Health have a centre that focuses on them. How different from India where there is very little interaction between modern medicine and the traditional systems, both of which occupy separate spheres and where the experts in each field encounter each other as adversaries in a battle!. Mr. Leavitt says that US policy is to take traditional systems of healing, understand it better, apply good science to it and apply it or use it. Mr. Leavitt mentions of the considerable time he spend in China looking at their traditional systems of medicine and his meeting with Mr.Chim, renowned in treating leukaemia , who successfully introduced arsenic in its treatment based on traditional practices.

The thrust on providing full information to users of health care and the positive approach to traditional systems of medicine being practiced the world over for centuries is proof that a change in approach, qualitative in nature, is taking place in health care in USA. The pace of change may be slow, yet the shift in emphasis is a welcome development. The United States should take the lead in integrating traditional healing practices with modern systems of medicine so that we gain the best of both. India's health administrators(and there's a surfeit of them) too should make sensible use of these suggestions of Mr.Leavitt.

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