The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has announced the opening of a center in Mumbai on the first floor of the Piramal Tower annexe to help broaden and coordinate the School’s nearly 60 years of collaborations to improve health in India and around the world.
The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s new center is the first in South Asia and the space has been provided through a generous charitable contribution by Dr. Swati Piramal and Mr. Ajay Piramal, two Harvard alumni. Dr. Swati Piramal, who graduated from Harvard’s School of Public Health in 1992, is one of India’s leading scientists and industrialists, and her efforts are focused on improving health care and public health in India and globally. She is the vice chairperson of Piramal Enterprises Ltd. (formerly known as Piramal Healthcare). Her husband, Mr. Ajay Piramal, is a graduate of Harvard Business School and is the chairman of the Piramal Group, a diversified conglomerate focusing on pharmaceuticals, packaging, financial services, and real estate, which has a presence in 100 countries around the world.
Celebration of the new facilities occurred during an event that included speeches by deans of both Harvard’s business and public health Schools. Harvard Business School has had a center in Mumbai since 2006. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has had active research and educational programs in India since the 1960s, but not an established physical office or center until now. Read more about the center here: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/india-center/
Harvard Chan School’s acting dean Dr. David Hunter said he sees many opportunities for the two schools to expand interactions between each other and with a wide variety of businesses and public health organizations and state and central governments within India dedicated to improving health in the country and the South Asia region.
“India has made dramatic progress in recent years,” said Dean Hunter. “For more than a decade, it has experienced record-breaking economic growth that has been accompanied by significant reductions in poverty. Infant mortality fell from 64 to 41 per 1,000 live births from 2000 to 2013. Life expectancy at birth has increased from 62 to 66 years, and the maternal mortality ratio has fallen from 390 to 189 per 100,000 live births over the same period.”
India also has dynamic pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries; world-class scientists, including a burgeoning clinical trials industry; and leading hospitals that attract foreign patients and treat its better-off citizens.
Yet India government and public health officials agree that the country also faces persistent and daunting public health challenges, particularly for the poor. These include child under-nutrition and low birth weights that often lead to premature death or lifelong health problems; high rates of neonatal and maternal mortality; growth in obesity, diabetes, and tobacco use, leading to cancer and other diseases; very high rates of road traffic accidents that result in injuries and deaths; disparities in health and health care systems between poorer and richer states; and underfunded health care systems that in many cases are inefficiently run and under-regulated. New government-financed health insurance programs are increasing coverage, but insurance remains limited.
Speaking about the need for collaborative health programs, Dr. Swati Piramal said, “Healthcare has always been a primary area of focus for us. Through our philanthropic arm, Piramal Foundation, we are working towards supporting primary rural health care and working along with the state governments on serious healthcare issues such as maternal and child mortality.” Dr. Piramal further added, “We truly believe that the solutions to India’s health problems lie in innovation and structured research in clinical and public health. We hope that the presence of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health will contribute positively towards this process.”
“India’s rapidly growing health system is placing huge demands on the country’s capacity to educate the next generation of researchers, clinical and public health professionals, and health system policymakers and managers,” said Dean Hunter. ”We believe the new Mumbai center will enable us to establish new collaborations and expand existing partnerships to increase the number of trained public health professionals and researchers in India, and to help strengthen the leadership of public health officials in central and state governments as well as private health-sector organizations. We are also excited by the opportunities to expand our research activities here in coordination with India’s leading public health organizations, and to devise new ways to prevent disease that are scalable and will work not only in India but globally.”
“We are very excited by the opportunities the new Mumbai office will help facilitate,” said Dr. Kasisomayajula “Vish” Viswanath, director of the new Mumbai center and who himself was born in Andhra Pradesh. “As the world’s second most populous country — and projected to become its most populous by 2030 — India has a unique opportunity through public health interventions ranging from smoking cessation initiatives to maternal and infant health programs to improve the wellbeing of all its citizens, as well as to improve global health more broadly. We are all proud to be part of what we anticipate will be an exciting time in public health in one of the largest democracies in the world.”