New Delhi: The Federation of Obstetricians and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI) recently concluded a two-day summit on women’s health and empowerment in India. The Aarogya Mahila Summit, supported by Global Health Strategies and Abbott India, was organized in New Delhi on August 28 and 29.
The Summit was inaugurated by Dr Harsh Vardhan, Minister of Health and Family Welfare; Mr Ashwini Choubey, Minister of State (MoS), Health and Family Welfare; Dr Nandita Palshetkar, FOGSI President and Dr Meena Agnihotri and Dr Hrishikesh Pai, Joint Summit Convenors.
Dr Harsh Vardhan spoke at length about past and ongoing government collaborations with FOGSI in addressing women’s health issues. He said, “FOGSI’s passion for serving people, and their consistency in addressing women’s health pro-bono is unparalleled. Through a meeting of minds and a meeting of actions between FOGSI and the Health Ministry, we can address many issues together, such as ending maternal and under-5 mortality, anaemia and family planning. We are planning to launch new initiatives and we look forward to your support in order to ensure health for all.”
The summit brought together the private sector, associations, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Niti Aayog, NGOs such as Jhpiego and international organizations such as USAID, WHO, UNICEF, MSD for Mothers together to discuss a diverse set of issues, including family planning, reproductive rights, maternal and child health, and non-communicable diseases, set against diverse backdrops of legislation, quality care, and research.
The representatives from the ministry urged FOGSI to engage and collaborate on national initiatives such as adopting aspirational districts, promoting family planning in high fertility districts, supporting IEC on maternal and newborn health. International organizations expressed desire to collaborate on evidence generation, advocacy and capacity strengthening of healthcare providers.
Many of the conversations were centred around various national policies and government initiatives for medical education and women’s health. Dr Nandita Palshetkar elaborated on FOGSI’s vision and the organisation’s commitments to the nation in her capacity as FOGSI President. Talking about reproductive rights for women, one of the main things on FOGSI’s agenda, she said, “Years of gender inequality has meant that a woman is still not in control of her own body and her health. This is where the role of advocacy and education are crucial in empowering women with choice, freedom and autonomy to make decisions about their own body. Organisations like FOGSI can contribute immensely in offering non-coercive, non-judgmental services to advance women’s reproductive rights. Above all, we need to highlight the unmet need of 1 in 5 women who do not have access to contraception and safe abortion — which contribute significantly to maternal and neonatal deaths every year. In order to address this issue, it is essential that we reach that last mile by providing and safeguarding reproductive rights for women.”
FOGSI is single largest institution of obstetricians and gynaecologists in India and globally, and is part of the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics (FIGO). The foremost goal and mission of FOGSI is to ensure quality care for all women and work towards the well-being and empowerment of women across the country. The summit highlighted the importance of public-private partnerships and how FOGSI can collaborate with the government and other stakeholders on a host of initiatives in order to expand its reach and amplify its impact.
Commenting on the importance of the summit, convenor Dr Hrishikesh Pai said,“Women’s health is undergoing a transition where the burden of non-communicable diseases is rising, there are still unmet needs for contraception, there are inequities in accessing quality care. Over the years, public-private-partnership in healthcare has gained greater national discourse. FOGSI is working to support the government’s public health goals, to have a population-level impact. Collaborative solutions between the government and the private sector can help in achieving affordable quality care for all women. Platforms such as the Aarogya Mahila help in sharing knowledge, ideas and best practices between the public and private sector so that both can build effective partnerships in addressing women’s health challenges together”.
Furthermore, highlighting the need for private sector participation in women’s health, Ambati Venu, Managing Director, Abbott India Ltd. said, “Women play a vital role in maintaining the health of their families, yet often neglect their own well-being. With unique needs spanning gynaecological conditions, hormonal disorders, reproductive health, pregnancy, menopause, cardiovascular conditions and diabetes, women’s health requires a focused and specialized approach. By addressing these needs holistically across the spectrum of awareness, detection, treatment and management, healthcare companies play a critical role in helping to find solutions to some of these problems. Abbott is committed to helping women live healthier and better lives, and to make their health a priority. For many years, our portfolio has been offering innovative and effective medicines with the aim of enhancing the quality of life of women affected.”
Issues around demystifying reproductive rights, the much debated area in women’s health were also discussed. Anjali Nayyar, Executive Vice President, Global Health Strategies said: “Education, gender empowerment, socio-economic development are closely interlinked with reproductive health and rights. When women and girls are given quality education, reproductive information, contraceptive choices and accessible services, they make responsible decisions – which in turn, results in healthier and more prosperous communities.”
The two-day long discussions can be summarized in the following ten-point agenda:
To address the crucial issue of population stabilization and the importance of family planning initiatives in solving various socio-economic problems in the country as well as ensuring healthier and happier mothers, children, and families
To emphasise the importance of access to and acceptability of contraception and safe abortion in lowering maternal mortality, and need to provide choice, freedom, and autonomy to women to make decisions about their own health and body
To discuss how doctors and healthcare providers should navigate complex and evolving legal and social landscapes, and how the government can introduce legislation that makes it easier for doctors to provide quality care and ensure reproductive rights for women
To emphasise the need for spreading awareness and educating adolescents and young girls on a large scale about reproductive rights, sexuality, pregnancy, health, hygiene and nutrition
To discuss the potential areas of public-private collaboration that can be undertaken to advance women’s health goals as well SDGs.
To discuss the various ways in which stakeholders in the medical community as well as the government can accelerate the decline in maternal mortality by ensuring quality antenatal, intrapartum and postpartum maternal care to every woman in India, especially with inclusion of the private sector.
To assess the progress made so far in addressing issues in women’s health through public and private initiatives; discuss the new initiatives being undertaken by the government to meet changing health goals; and introspect on the work yet to be done
To address the rise in non-communicable diseases in women and ways in which changing health scenarios must be tackled by the medical community in awareness, prevention and treatment.
To formulate well-planned national goals and strategies to reach out to people across the country and abroad, with solutions to address family planning, maternal health, and child health.
To discuss the future of medical practice in India with the proliferation of telemedicine, social media, artificial intelligence and other tech-enabled solutions and their role in addressing maternal mortality and other issues in women’s health