In his address to the people of India on the Coronavirus pandemic, the Prime Minister of India attempted a paradigm shift in the way we approach public health. Neither fearful nor fearless, he framed the crisis we are facing with the rest of the in the following key ways. The address to the nation took a medical problem and its models to a social model involving all of us. He ensured that the conversation went from individual suffering to the responsibility of a community because we cannot afford a community spread.
The struggle went from patients in hospitals to people that includes the entire country. He shifted gear from disease to health and from providing to enabling. These are critical changes in the way we look at public health. From drugs and technology (and its absence at the moment) to spreading knowledge through solidarity, he asked people to speak to ten people with the right attitude and facts. Finally, as the leader of the nation, he took professional control of the situation by demystifying the conversation, rumours and false hopes that have led people to say the pandemic will pass.
Europeans who have seen the ravages of two world wars are reeling under the effects of the pandemic. They have systems and processes that can track and trace individuals which we in India do not have yet. I have heard heads of state and government address their people in Italian, French, German and English during this pandemic. I have written speeches for heads of international health organizations, CEOs of Indian and European companies. The Prime Minister’s address to the nation was fair and did not compare India to any other country since everyone is struggling.
As someone who understands public health, I sincerely hope people get this message which has been put out for them, in their interest and the interest of the world of which we are a part. A major shift is being attempted. It will not happen without each of us and in these times of distress people who have no solutions to propose must remain silent.