India, US renew commitment on collaboration in health sector

The second India-US Health Dialogue concluded in New Delhi on Wednesday with a commitment to renew the joint collaboration in the health sector between the two countries, especially in the fields of research, global health security and access to medicines.

The second India-US Health Dialogue in progress in New Delhi.
The second India-US Health Dialogue in progress in New Delhi. Photos courtesy: US Embassy

Representatives from the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Global Affairs (HHS-OGA), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Food and Drug Administration(FDA), National Institutes of Health (NIH) and US Agency for International Development (USAID) interacted with their counterparts from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST), and Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) to encourage bilateral collaboration across several aspects of health pertinent to both nations.

The two day bilateral dialogue was jointly inaugurated by C K Mishra, Secretary MoHFW, Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Secretary, Department of Health Research(DHR) and Director-General Indian Council of Medical Research(ICMR), Garrett Grigsby, Director of Global Affairs at U.S. Department of Health and Human Services(HHS), and Mark Anthony White, Mission Director, India, USAID.

Addressing the participants, Mishra said that India and US had a long history of health cooperation which has now started converging on the platform of the India-US Health Dialogue.

The delegates during the conference.
The delegates during the conference.

"By institutionalising the dialogue, we have reaffirmed our commitment to work together in the areas of health, for better addressing the health challenges faced by our people in both countries, such as cancer, R&D, communicable and non-communicable diseases, traditional medicines, access to medicines, food and drug regulation, antimicrobial resistance, and so on," health secretary Mishra said.

"It is mutually beneficial for us to continue to engage on these and other health issues, to not only address our health challenges but to also, in the process, contribute to global health objectives and outcomes," he added.

In its most comprehensive iteration yet, the second Health Dialogue touched upon several issues of bilateral importance – communicable and non-communicable diseases, health system, biomedical research and low-cost innovations, science and health data, food and drug regulations, traditional medicines and access to medicines.

Participants reaffirmed the commitment to strengthen scientific, regulatory, and health cooperation between the two nations and the global community; highlight priorities and ongoing activities, and exchange information on policies, regulations, research, technologies, programs, activities, and practices. The final goal is to identify emerging areas of mutual interest and facilitate the development of new collaborations.

"Today’s India-US Health Dialogue highlights the many areas of ongoing co-operation between India and the United States. These collaborations form a key part of our larger Strategic and Commercial Dialogue. Working together, we can tackle problems relevant to both our nations, such as global health security, research on understudied diseases, and access to medicines," said  Grigsby.

In addition to the discussions at the Health Dialogue, the US delegation visited several Indian institutes in New Delhi, Mumbai, and Bengaluru to explore grounds for collaborations to control and manage HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, antimicrobial resistance, cancer, acute encephalitis syndrome, mental health, vision and traditional medicine.

US Charge D’Affaires Mary Kay Carlson with participants of 2nd India-US Health Dialogue held in New Delhi
US Charge D’Affaires Mary Kay Carlson (2nd from right) with participants of 2nd India-US Health Dialogue held in New Delhi.

The Health Dialogue’s closing ceremony was attended by US Charge D’Affaires Mary Kay Carlson.

"The strong showing from ministries and agencies on both the U.S. and Indian sides shows the level of commitment to this relationship. We look forward to continued strong cooperation in the scientific, regulatory, and health sectors – not only between our two nations, but with the global community," Carlson said.

Discussions will be strengthened at the next US-India Health Dialogue in Washington, DC.

Health is among 50 bilateral dialogues between two countries and is among five traditional pillars of India-US bilateral relations. The other four are Strategic Cooperation; Energy and Climate Change, Education and Development; Economy, Trade and Agriculture; and Science and Technology.

First Health Dialogue was held in September 2015 in Washington DC, where both sides agreed to collaborate institutionally in the new areas of mental health and regulatory and capacity-building aspects of traditional medicine.

Pradeep Rana
Pradeep Rana – Senior Correspondent

Pradeep Rana has worked as a journalist with news ​agencies UNI and PTI, newspapers Indian Express and The Times Of India, and television channel NHK as South Asia Correspondent. He has also worked as Media Analyst at US Embassy, and edited several magazines and a medical handbook.