Difficult Dialogues Summit Brings Together Experts, Politicians And Policy Makers For A Vital Conversation On India's Health February 10-12, 2017, International Centre Goa, Dona Paula

This weekend will see leading experts, policy makers and world famous stars and personalities gather in Goa for the much-anticipated return of the Difficult Dialogues forum, an annual conference tackling the most vital issues facing South Asia. The second edition in the series will focus on the question: 'Is India's Health a Grand Challenge?'

Panjim, Goa, February 7, 2017 /India PRwire/ -- This year, the forum will be held in partnership with UCL (University College London), a world-leading university that combines its research excellence across all disciplines to tackle the most pressing global challenges of the 21st century. Renowned health policy experts and anthropologists from UCL such as Professor Marie Lall, Professor Monica Lakhanpaul, Dr. Aarathi Prasad and Dr. Sushrut Jadhav will be amongst the speakers at the conference. Through engaging panel discussions, the speakers will grapple with crucial issues of public health budgets, cancer, disease, mental health, and health technology. Leading UK lecturer and researcher on health from King's College London Sridhar Venkatapuram will also be speaking.

India spends less than one and a half per cent of its GDP on public health. This is a fraction of the amount that other developing countries allocate in their budgets. With this in mind, a top priority of Difficult Dialogues 2017 will be to firmly position Health on the political agenda of the Indian government.

In pressing this agenda, attendees can expect to see top government officials discuss new policy directions with a number of leading minds from the professional world, academia, development experts, the media and a host of celebrities with vivid experiences of the issues at hand. Amongst the highlights are Former Health Secretaries Sujata Rao, Anshu Prakash and Keshav Desiraju discussing health policy issues; Health secretary of Punjab Vini Mahajan; Head of Research and Development at CIPLA Jaideep Kogte; former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Farooq Abdullah; commentator Pavan Kumar Varma voicing his thoughts on contemporary socio-economic issues in the Health of the Nation panel debate; author and commentator Gurcharan Das; Congress Party state president Sachin Pilot; TV personality and political candidate Shazia Ilmi; actress Manisha Koirala - prominent women's rights activist and cancer survivor - discussing treatment in India and abroad; acclaimed actor Kabir Bedi who will be on hand to chair a number of panel discussions; actor and motivational speaker Anu Agarwal; and leading editor of the Wire.In Siddharth Varadarajan.

Difficult Dialogues will also be graced by several local icons of Goa, the beautiful host state. Dr. Vikram Patel - founder of Porvorim based NGO Sangath - and listed as one of TIME Magazine's 'World's Top 100 Most Influential People' - will be discussing his path-breaking work in mental health, in which he is a leading expert. Dr Patel thinks that "India's leaders espouse pretensions to join the world's developed countries and yet her health care system ranks amongst the worst performing in the world. India is the world's factory of medicines and doctors and yet a vast number of Indians have no access to either. These stark contradictions reveal that the most difficult dialogue in India today is the place of health in the social fabric of the country."

A panel discussion that many in Goa would particularly find engaging is on medical tourism with leading doctors Sachin Arolkar, Deep Bhandare, Shirish Borkar and Sushant Walke discussing with moderator Subodh Kerkar, the infrastructure and policy support that Goa needs to make it a world-class destination for medicine. Dr Sheela Gupte, Goa's leading obstetrician will be speaking on 'Better Births' along with one of the world's leading midwives Mary Renfrew and others. Tech-savvy readers will be aware of Dr. Patel's illuminating TEDTalk and will also be excited to hear that a number of other alumni of the TEDTalk series will be joining him, including humourous activist, Jo Chopra, of the Latika Roy Foundation which empowers people with disabilities. Dr Gauri Dewan from Sangath will also be speaking on the same panel.

To capture the voice of students, the forum is also opening up the debate to India's universities by sponsoring Daring Debates, an intensive college debate series about the 'Medical Oath - A Moral Compass No More,' which runs parallel to Difficult Dialogues. This year, medical students from Delhi, Goa, Pondicherry, Lucknow and Guwahati - are invited to compete in teams of two with the winning teams from each city being given the chance to battle it out at the grand finale. Aside from the prizes on offer, this will allow the views of our future medical leaders to be considered by experts and peers - an integral part of the forum's inclusive dialogue.

Difficult Dialogues was created by philanthropist Surina Narula, a veteran NGO founder - responsible, amongst other achievements, for establishing the internationally lauded Consortium for Street Children - with the intent to bring together leaders from across the spectrum of international society to meet and find equitable solutions to South Asia's most pressing priorities. Commenting on Difficult Dialogues 2017, Anil Gupta, Chairman of its Steering Committee said: "Difficult Dialogues aims at providing a forum for individuals, organizations, think-tanks, media, government and policy makers to get together and debate themes of contemporary relevance in South Asia. This year the vision is to explore the challenges that India faces in creating conditions for good health and access to healthcare for all citizens. I look forward to three days of purposeful and incisive debates leading to the highlighting of key issues and bringing meaningful change and benefit for the people in the South Asian region."

Indeed, last year's forum - in cooperation with the world famous social sciences institute, the London School of Economics - debated critical areas such as India's global financial position, internal social developments and international relations. Panel discussions were leavened with appearances from a sprinkling of film stars and famous personalities, each of whom delivered eloquent, humorous, yet profound insights. Coinciding with stimulating panel debates, vivid illustrated lectures were hosted by internationally renowned author Amitav Ghosh and experienced activist Srdja Popovic - the combination of activism, policy, art and entertainment made this a very different experience from your everyday conference.

The forum left a lasting legacy in India's political and civic arenas. Flowing directly from the atmosphere of cooperation, the summit has thus far been directly responsible for the creation of four white papers (documents fundamental to the creation of new government policy), a series of comprehensive reports, and a follow-up programme of documentaries and awareness initiatives in partnership with tve (Television for the Environment). Going even further, this year's forum aims to produce a list of 'Ten Demands on Health' that will be presented to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Anyone with a vested interest in the nation's health will find the upcoming Difficult Dialogues forum from February 10-12 to be a vibrant, stimulating festival of ideas that truly has the power to change the future direction of Indian society. For further information on the Difficult Dialogues Forum series, and to register, one can visit www.difficultdialogues.com

Notes to Editor

About UCL (University College London)

UCL was founded in 1826. We were the first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge, the first to open up university education to those previously excluded from it, and the first to provide systematic teaching of law, architecture and medicine. We are among the world's top universities, as reflected by performance in a range of international rankings and tables. UCL currently has over 38,000 students from 150 countries and over 12,000 staff. Our annual income is more than £1 billion.

www.ucl.ac.uk | Follow us on Twitter @uclnews | Watch our YouTube channel YouTube.com/UCLTV


February 10th

● Health in All Policies: Towards 'Health For All'

● Health in Sport: Lessons from the professionals

February 11th

● Organ Donation: Achieving National Self-Sufficiency - Disenfranchisement, Commercialisation and Controversy

● How Can Gender Affect Your Health and Health Care?

● Curbing the Spread of Disease

● Better Births: Where is the Woman's Choice in Childbirth?

● Making Health Technologies Affordable

● One Psychiatrist, 4 Lakh Patients: How the Rights of People with Mental Health Conditions can be Protected

● Providing a Safety Net for India: Advances in Health Insurance

● Health and Holidays: Medical Tourism in Goa

February 12th

● What Are We Doing About Cancer?

● How Do We Ensure Equality and Opportunity for People with Disabilities?

● What's Plaguing India's Doctors?

● Maintaining Elite Performance: Health in Sport

● Health of Young People: Working to Reduce Premature NCD Mortality and Morbidity

● India: Health of the Nation

● Workshop: Engaging in difficult health dialogues - what is the role of art, film and dialogue in building sustainable community healthcare?

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