India has a population of approximately 1.3 billion, making it the second-highest populated country in the world. With the exception of the Himalayan foothills and deserts in the northwest, a majority of the country sustains a very high population density that straddles the country’s river valleys. Due to its population density and sanitation conditions, Indian citizens face a high risk of infectious disease with the most common being bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A & E and typhoid fever.
Public Health Programs
Because of the risk and occurrence of infectious diseases, public health programs in India continue to work with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) as well as many other U.S backed organizations to decrease the risk of a disease pandemic.
Historically, U.S. public health programs in India foster positive health outcomes. For instance, because of World Health Organization (WHO) and Center for Disease Control (CDC) treatments in the 1990s and early 2000s, India is now polio-free.
In the early and mid-2000s, CDC and USAID programs identified the monsoon seasonality of influenza and shifted their recommendations to vaccinate before India’s monsoons occur, greatly benefiting civilian populations. Between 2009-2015, U.S. backed public health programs in India even developed 65 HIV reference laboratories certified under the CDC training programs, therefore increasing the access to effective testing and treatment programs.
Emerging Pandemic Threats Program
More recently, the United States developed USAID’s Emerging Pandemic Threats Program (EPT), a global health initiative that works in countries that are most vulnerable to the outbreaks of pandemics. This branch of USAID launched in February 2014 and maintains a growing partnership with over 50 nations, international organizations and non-governmental stakeholders to ensure that the country reduces the risk of infectious disease threats.
EPT in India
The Emerging Pandemic Threats Program in India strengthens the subcontinent’s capacity to detect threats of infectious disease through an early intervention approach. USAID works alongside WHO to fight antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which is defined as virus and bacteria’s ability to become resistant to already known and utilized antibiotic treatments.
Antimicrobial resistance occurs due to natural genetic changes viruses and bacteria undergo when they are initially exposed to an antibiotic. AMR is complicating the fight against the spread of tuberculosis, HIV and malaria, by making some current treatments ineffective.
EPT programs in India combat AMR by conducting targeted surveillance of key wildlife and livestock species, as well as those who handle the animals to identify harmful bacterias and viruses and develop new treatments against them.
Also, EPT programs in India collaborate with WHO to identify unknown harmful viruses in nature and better understand its biological characteristics. Through early monitoring of viruses and bacterias, public health professionals can more quickly develop working vaccines as well as preventative community health preparations to lower risk factors in India’s vulnerable populations.
Public Health Programs in India
EPT programs in India also work closely with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), encouraging a multi-sectoral response system to food safety hazards and educating farmers and food preparers of sanitary food and livestock keeping practices.
While India’s population density makes public health efforts difficult to perfect, U.S. efforts, as well as United Nations efforts, are working hard to decrease the risk of infectious disease and limit pandemic potential within the country.
– Danny Levy