Scientific and technological innovation is essential in our efforts to achieve access to affordable healthcare for all. The concept of inclusive innovation, proposed by Dr. R. A. Mashelkar in his article Saving Humanity: More From Less for More People, offers the potential for ‘access equality despite income inequality’ by creating high-quality goods and services that are truly accessible to the largest number of people, especially at the lower income levels. He writes:
As emerging economies continue to design special policies and programs that focus directly on the needs of the economically excluded, they cannot simply wait for a “rising tide to lift all boats”. One cannot simply address the income inequality exclusively through standard policy levers like tax and transfer mechanisms, subsidies, welfare and entitlements. An agenda which also facilitates the provision of access to essential goods and services at affordable prices and increases the purchasing power of the BoP will better enable this segment to participate economically, and will reduce the challenge of income inequality, which can be overcome only in decades.
We need to achieve three objectives simultaneously and rapidly. First, improving the access to essential services. Second, increasing the purchasing power. And third, also reducing the income inequality.
We can well begin to achieve these three objectives, if we do something that looks impossible at first sight. And that is to create access equality despite the income inequality. And how can we do that? By using inclusive innovation.
As he states, extreme price reductions for the Hep-B vaccine, cataract eye surgery, and the ECG machine have already been achieved in India. The concepts and strategies proposed here are a valuable contribution to the transformation of the healthcare system.
Dr. R.A. Mashelkar, FRS, is the National Research Professor at CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory, the President of Global Research Alliance and Chairman of National Innovation Foundation. He has also been the President of Indian National Science Academy and Director General of Council of Scientific Research.