By Mark Khurana
The news, generally speaking, is somewhat of a mess. It’s an amalgamation of breaking news, clickbait titles and stories mostly relevant in the western world. But that got me thinking – what am I not reading about? Given that our worldview is shaped to a large extent by what we read, it’s crucial that the stories we get told are representative of reality. While the picture I’ve painted above is for news in general, it is also true in the healthcare space. So, who tells the untold health stories?
At the start of April, I began planning a project: The Untold Health Podcast. It was an opportunity to explore topics in the field of health that were significant but overlooked. For me personally, it was a chance to learn about neglected health topics; and equally, it was a chance to disseminate some of these stories to a wider audience through arguably the fastest-growing information medium in recent years: podcasting. But first, I had to find a topic – hard to do with Google, given that it by nature has to be under-reported.
I happened to stumble upon an article in an Indian newspaper regarding Ayushman Bharat, a health insurance scheme that had been rolled out in 2018 in most Indian states. Subsequently, I found that quite a few articles had been written (in India), as well as briefly in the Lancet, about the progress they had been making in getting patients to sign up. Why hadn’t I heard of this before? I’m quite good at looking through journals and newspapers, and I have about four different news apps on my phone but had never heard of this initiative – which is remarkable given that it covers 500 million people. Yes, you read that right. 500 million. How could the largest health insurance scheme in the world not receive more coverage? That was untold health.
While I am of Indian heritage (on the paternal side of my family), I didn’t have much experience navigating the healthcare space in the country. However, I found more similar untold health stories, spammed relevant experts with emails (with a 40% response success rate) and traveled to India for a month to interview some experts within each of the topics, taking me from Mumbai to Delhi to Chandigarh. The first season was completed in the middle of September, comprising six episodes spanning from Ayushman Bharat to the lack of accountability in the healthcare sector in India to the concept of ‘reverse innovation’. In fact, we’ve just released the first episode of the second season of the podcast, discussing ‘Design in Healthcare’ – which is very different from the first season!
So, what have I learned? Other than getting insights into the topics covered on the podcast, I’ve also been exposed to experts in fields that I didn’t know existed a few months ago. In general, they were surprisingly willing to share their side of the story – and were perhaps grateful that they received some coverage. There’s an unbelievable amount of fantastic work being done in healthcare that we, particularly in the western world, never hear about – and thereby never get to appreciate.
I obviously won’t be able to find and share every underappreciated topic in healthcare. However, I hope that I can help share some of the untold health stories that deserve more attention – and thus portray a more complete picture of healthcare in the world.