Public health integration in CSR a must to reshape the post Covid-19 world

CSR in a post-Covid world must go beyond beautiful reports to risk-informed planning with multi-lateral convergence to ensure sustainability and integrate commitment to public health

Dr. Edmond Fernandes
Updated: Dec 6, 2021 06:53:42 PM UTC

Dr. Edmond Fernandes is a community health physician and CEO, CHD Group – a public health organization headquartered at Mangalore, India. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council in Washington DC and a Consultant – United Nations Economic and Social Commission for the Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok. Being an Alumnus of the US Department of State, Dr. Edmond has published several books, written columns in national press and travels around the world on commitments of global health and development. He can be reached on office@edmond.in

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CSR in a post Covid-19 world must replace the feeling of instability and uncertainty with a hope that comes with sustainable mental and social conditioning. Image: Shutterstock

The time for industries to align their CSR [Corporate Social Responsibility] policies with a structured public health approach, and public health in all its policies is now more imperative than ever before. You can focus on education, environment, or skilling, but if public health in policies, and a thematic intervention is missing, then the resulting intervention will become a watershed moment. Unless we put humanity at the centre of our solutions, all the social responsibility and technical solutions will have no power to transform human life.

Towards a new algorithm for implementation

A post Covid-19 world calls for a new algorithm to reimagine the boardrooms that will execute social responsibility with business development, independent stakeholder integration, and shared strategic values that have good returns to the company. Not necessary with turnover alone, but with cultivated goodwill, greater visibility and penetration cross-sectorally.

CSR in a post Covid-19 world must replace the feeling of instability and uncertainty with a hope that comes with sustainable mental and social conditioning. While the bold decisions of implementing CSR programmes must be left to field operating organisations, when planning is outsourced to consulting firms, grassroots impact dies a natural death. Real change must happen on the ground, not in the corridors of air-conditioned offices. This change is built on sustainable goodwill, strategy and expertise.

Rapidly deteriorating social systems and a society in distress

The gravity of today’s social, economic and ecological crisis will serve to suggest that we live in an ecosystem that is rapidly deteriorating, bereft of all values. As per COP26 reports, the future of the world is scary, and achieving net-zero carbon emission is now an organising principle for businesses. The challenge will be to deploy enough capital to achieve net-zero and reinvent a social system to thrive in. On the other hand, The National Crime Records Bureau observed in their 2020 report that suicides during 2020 increased and were at 1,53,052 in India as compared to 1,39,123 in 2019. The suicide rate in cities was higher and the main reason was family problems. Nearly 67 percent of married males were among those who committed suicide. This presents an opportunity to align a society in distress. Much of the CSR efforts look at an angle of women empowerment as an objective to enhance, but I would propose looking at the family as a centre of the compass as spill-over influencers affect men, women and children.

Interventions in community development must factor in gender inclusion in the action. These reports from the NCRB are just the tip of the iceberg against those not factored in with severe mental illnesses, those with psychological imbalance due to an overloaded social system and a socio-economic proliferation that adds further stress on sustainable processes and the family system.

A social system in distress presents an opportunity for industries, falling under the CSR ambit, to re-align their approach to enhance public health systems. To put the family at the very heart of human progress, to alleviate poverty, to reclaim dignity to those who are forgotten and mainstream them again. At large, to protect our Earth as we are in this together.

Public health in all policies

Bold developmental leadership in public health will bat for social determinants of a health approach with multi-objectives adding value into programme implementation. Beautiful reports are attractive to read, but risk-informed planning with multi-lateral convergence will ensure sustainability.

Companies must directly work with public health proficient institutions who are the real changemakers on the ground and those who can support communities and governments at the same time. Public health in all policies means preventive interventions, curative interventions, cross-sectoral convergence across line ministries, social upliftment, skill development and environmental protection during the same phase of intervention.

Companies and NGOs must work together to achieve multi-objective interventions of public health importance towards reimagining a post Covid-19 world and also towards achieving idealistic targets around Sustainable Development Goals with barely a few years remaining for the fulfilment of the 2030 agenda.

The writer is a community health physician and CEO of CHD Group.

 

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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