Sweden hopes to deepen cooperation with India in AMR; AI on radar for future ties in healthcare

Kunal Dutt

New Delhi, Dec 3 (PTI) Anti-microbial research (AMR) and artificial intelligence are some of the key areas in which Sweden hopes to extend its cooperation in the health sector with India, a top Swedish official in the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs said on Tuesday.

The year 2019 is being celebrated as Sweden India Year of Health, Swedish State Secretary to the minister for health and social affairs Maja Fjaestad said, asserting that there would have been no better way to mark 10 years of the bilateral health cooperation than the visit of the Swedish royal couple to India.

'Our cooperation (in healthcare) began in 2009 and since then our partnership has grown in strength. A number of high-level visits have taken place from both sides as part of this cooperation in focus areas, almost one visit every year. And the ongoing royal visit by our king and queen makes the best of these 10 years in 2019,' Fjaestad told PTI in an interview.

As part of the collaboration, India and Sweden have already partnered for research in areas such as communicable diseases and anti-microbial research. An agreement between the Public Health Agency of Sweden and the Indian National Centre for Disease Control was signed as part of the cooperation.

The Swedish health ministry official said her country was 'eager to deepen and strengthen cooperation' in the AMR field, and hoped that India would join the 'Alliance of Champions'.

At the 2015 World Health Assembly in Geneva, the then Swedish health minister Gabriel Wikstrom had launched the 'Alliance of Champions', which consisted of health ministers of 14 countries, to promote 'political awareness, engagement and leadership' on AMR.

Asked if artificial intelligence (AI) would be an area that Sweden will be looking into to extend this decade-long cooperation in the healthcare sector, Fjaestad said, 'We are following with great interest, the technology-driven innovation being done in India.' 'Best healthcare is whatever is the best for patients, and health-related data, sound, professional, integrity-driven data are important factors. So for health data, AI would be an important component. So glancing into the next 10 years of our cooperation, AI and health data would be important areas,' she said.

Fjaestad also said Swedish Queen Silvia visited the dementia centre at AIIMS on Tuesday morning, and interacted with staff and patients to understand caregiving system and patient care.

'Dementia patients' care is one of the elements of our cooperation, so the queen visited the centre at AIIMS,' she said. The queen in 1990s had set up a foundation that provides training to doctors and nurses to handle dementia patients.

'The idea of care for such patients is to integrate it with overall patient care, and social awareness. Also, e-health, welfare technology and elderly care are part of the area of healthcare cooperation,' she added.

Broadening their 10-year-long partnership, India and Sweden on Tuesday joined hands to set up a healthcare innovation centre to promote research, broadly in non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and help scale-up Indian start-ups in the sector.

'This year marks 10 years of India-Sweden cooperation in healthcare. And today, AIIMS, Delhi; AIIMS, Jodhpur, and Swedish Trade Commissioner's Office in Delhi joined hands to set up a healthcare innovation centre,' Niclas Jacobson, a senior official in Sweden's Ministry of Health and Social Affairs, told PTI.

He said the royal couple's visit is coinciding with the Sweden India Year of Health, and a number of Swedish companies from the healthcare sector made presentations at a summit here.

Institutes from India that are included in the partnership, which was announced in 2009, are the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSO), among other institutions.

From Sweden's side, the institutions include the Karolinska Institute, Uppsala University and Lund University, among others.

'The Joint Working Group constituted under the 2009 cooperation aims to coordinate and mutually fulfill the aims and expectations of the partnership. The group has met several times,' Jacobson said. PTI KND SNE SNE