November 13, 2020

Engaging Indian States: Identifying Opportunities for Healthcare Partnership in India

Authors: Nicole Davis and Jonathan Gonzalez-Smith

It is no secret that India offers a health care environment for innovations to flourish. Terms like “frugal” and “jugaad” are used to describe India’s ingenuity in tackling knotty problems with limited resources. Yet for international institutions looking to partner with their creative Indian counterparts, an array of obstacles at the state level continues to hold back potential partnerships. These include shifting state priorities, general opacity about priorities, and no central clearinghouse to identify engagement opportunities.

Report CoverNonetheless, collaborations at the state level of government have been cited as the best way to positively impact health outcomes in India. Recent efforts by India’s Union Cabinet to decentralize governance have given Indian states even greater ability to craft health policies, determine spending priorities, and create environments that address their state-specific challenges. In order to better understand these health priorities and opportunities for partnership across Indian states, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Wadhwani Chair in U.S.-India Policy Studies and Innovations in Healthcare launched the “Indian States Health Innovation Partnership” (ISHIP). The project aims to identify Indian states most ready to partner and broker potential collaborations, broadcasting clearly-defined opportunities as widely as possible.

In exploring the Indian state- level ecosystem, the ISHIP team met with health officials and stakeholders in fifteen states, supplementing these interviews with surveys and desk research in the remaining fourteen states. We then categorized health priorities across four areas: capacity, organizational delivery, financing, and health conditions. From this research, we identified several potential areas of collaboration across a number of states, including:

  • Bihar: Creation or adoption of an integrated data analytics program to better use health data for informed policy choices
  • Maharashtra: Developing a mechanism to integrate over 70 different information systems to achieve interoperability
  • West Bengal: Training to develop skills for rural health workers and supervisors
  • Tamil Nadu: Improve data analytics for non-communicable disease management 

Our findings provide a guide for innovators looking to introduce and scale their models in new contexts. In India, partnering with the public sector can be critical for impacting outcomes, leading to widespread adoption and sustainability. For example, in partnership with the Maharashtra government. UE LifeSciences (an Innovations in Healthcare-affiliated innovator) pre-screened more than 80,000 women and detected over 100 new cases of breast cancer at an early stage. In partnership with multiple Indian state governments, Noora Health (also an Innovations in Healthcare-affiliated innovator) has been able to implement caregiver and health worker training programs, reaching over 200,000 family members to support at-home patient recovery.

In subsequent phases of this work, the team will help develop partnerships, guided by our findings. To do so, we will soon release a second report, which highlights best practices and challenges in forming partnerships with Indian States.

To learn more, read the Indian State Priorities for Health Innovation Partnerships report and visit the CSIS Engaging Indian States website.