Sustainable Development Goal 3 (SDG 3) is focused on ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all, at all ages. Achieving this goal is crucial, especially given the significant public health challenges India faces. These include the burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases, poor healthcare infrastructure, and the challenge of providing accessible and affordable healthcare to all. Meeting SDG 3 targets is essential, and corporate philanthropy can play a vital role in achieving them.
Corporate philanthropy or Corporate Social Responsibility refers to the donation of time, resources, and money by businesses to social causes. This article will examine five ways corporate philanthropy can help achieve SDG 3 in India.
1. Improving Healthcare Infrastructure
One of the significant challenges in achieving SDG 3 in India is the lack of proper healthcare infrastructure, particularly in rural and remote areas. Companies can contribute to improving healthcare infrastructure by building hospitals, clinics, and medical centres, especially in areas where access to healthcare is limited. These contributions can be in the form of monetary donations, medical equipment, or medical staff. Additionally, corporate philanthropy can help address the shortage of healthcare workers in underdeveloped regions by supporting training and education programs for healthcare professionals. This can help create a workforce equipped to provide quality healthcare services.
For instance, Wipro, an Indian multinational corporation, has pledged INR 1,125 crore (approximately $150 million) to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic in India. The funds will be used to set up COVID-19 hospitals, procure medical equipment and supplies, and support the development of new treatments and vaccines. Additionally, Wipro has partnered with non-profit organizations to provide support for frontline healthcare workers and their families.
2. Supporting Research and Development
Research and development (R&D) are critical to the advancement of healthcare, particularly in the development of new treatments and vaccines. By supporting R&D initiatives, corporate philanthropy can help develop innovative healthcare solutions that address public health challenges such as COVID-19, HIV/AIDS, and malaria. Additionally, R&D can help identify new treatments for chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.
For example, the Tata Trusts, a philanthropic organization in India, has established the Tata Memorial Centre for Cancer Research, one of the world’s leading cancer research centres. The centre conducts cutting-edge research on cancer diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. Additionally, the Tata Trusts have partnered with various organizations, including the National Cancer Grid, to improve cancer care in India.
3. Addressing Mental Health
Mental health is a significant public health challenge in India, with an estimated 150 million people affected by mental illness. Corporate philanthropy can play a critical role in addressing this challenge by supporting mental health initiatives. For instance, companies can partner with mental health organizations to provide funding for research on mental health and create awareness campaigns that help reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.
In 2020, the Aditya Birla Group, a conglomerate in India, launched the ‘My Wellness’ program, which aims to promote mental and physical health among its employees. The program includes virtual wellness sessions, mental health counselling services, and mindfulness training. Additionally, the group has partnered with the Indian government to establish mental health centres in several states.
4. Promoting Health and Wellness
Corporate philanthropy can also help promote health and wellness by supporting initiatives that encourage physical activity, healthy eating, and other healthy behaviours. These initiatives can be targeted at employees, customers, or the broader community. By supporting healthy living, companies can help prevent chronic illnesses and reduce healthcare costs while improving the overall well-being of individuals.
For example, Nestle India, a subsidiary of Nestle, has launched the ‘Nestle for Healthier Kids’ program, which aims to promote healthy eating among children in India. The program includes nutrition education programs, physical activity initiatives, and other health-focused campaigns. Additionally, the company has partnered with various organisations to improve the availability of healthy food options in schools and other public places.
5. Providing Affordable Healthcare
Affordable healthcare is crucial in ensuring that everyone has access to healthcare services, regardless of their socioeconomic status. Corporate philanthropy can help provide affordable healthcare by funding healthcare programs, establishing clinics in underserved areas, and supporting healthcare insurance schemes. These initiatives can help reduce the financial burden of healthcare and improve the overall health outcomes of the population.
The Reliance Foundation, a philanthropic organization in India, has established the Reliance Foundation Hospital in Mumbai, which provides quality healthcare services at an affordable cost. The hospital provides a range of services, including cancer care, cardiology, and neurology, among others. Additionally, the foundation has launched several healthcare programs in rural areas, providing access to healthcare services to underserved populations.
The role of corporate philanthropy in achieving SDG 3 in India cannot be overstated. By supporting healthcare infrastructure, research and development, mental health, health and wellness, and affordable healthcare initiatives, companies can help address the public health challenges in the country. However, it is essential to note that corporate philanthropy should not be a substitute for government action in addressing public health challenges. Rather, it should complement government efforts and help accelerate progress towards achieving SDG 3.