Doctors and scientists on a mission

October 7, 2019 0 By FM

The progress of a community or country depends on several important factors, among which healthcare is one of the most important. “Walk of Life” event was conceived and organized by the Institute for Applied Research and Innovation, Bangalore keeping in view trends that show that the younger generation is becoming more vulnerable to diseases, doctors are getting overburdened/misunderstood and scientists rarely come out on public forums for knowledge translation,. “Walk of Life” epitomizes the journey of every individual — a journey that should mean living and not merely survival. Living encompasses quality of life. However, the majority of low- and middle-income population does not have proper access to information which can save lives and give them a better life. In India, doctors are a major source of empowerment for patients, but are also misunderstood on several levels. There is also a perception that one should only go to a doctor after falling sick, which makes the work of doctors much more difficult. It is therefore very important for the clinical community to engage with the public to enable proper scientific knowledge translation which can enable community empowerment and development. It is in this context that a collaboration becomes crucial between doctors and scientists to enable translational research in real time along with public engagement and policy drive.

The “Walk of Life” event has so far focused on two major aspects of healthcare, namely, genetic screening and the genomics of non-communicable diseases like heart diseases. It is well known that, with the advent of nextgen sequencing, genomics has become the talk of the town. But this is mainly within the discussion forums of scientists and doctors. In order to enable universal healthcare and improved clinical outcomes, it is very important to empower the public and policymakers with the advancements in genome sequencing. “Walk of Life” has become the platform for the clinical and scientific fraternity to collaborate and disseminate rapidly emerging scientific knowledge in simple terms to the public. There are several knowledge translation models, but the problem-solving approach is the one that has not been explored to a large extent. The majority of such translation platforms have unidirectional information flow by way of lectures. It is well understood that this passive flow of information is not a sustainable model to engage the public. This can be seen in the case of scurvy, where it took 200 years of convincing for the recommendations of the experts to be implemented in practice (Mosteller 1989).

A problem-solving approach

The new problem-solving approach generates the biggest impact on all stakeholders in healthcare as it addresses the needs of the community at different levels and takes into account how interrelations/communications between these stakeholders bring about change. In the case of genetic screening, many participants were not even aware that such testing can be done. The participating scientists gave clear explanations to doctors (Dr Jayabharati Thangarajan, Dr Shilpashree N, Dr Roopa L and Dr Jiny Nair) about the utility of genetics in healthcare for all. Local community leaders then took up the task of spreading awareness through their WhatsApp and
Facebook groups about the benefits of discussing with doctors regarding genetic testing.

The “Walk of Life” event happens every 2nd Sunday of the month. The last event focused on the genomics of heart diseases, given that deaths from premature cardiovascular diseases are on the rise in India and we have achieved very little penetration of knowledge into society about modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors. The senior practicing doctors such as Dr Magesh Balakrishnan, Dr Balaji Jaganmohan and Dr Jayabharathi Thangarajan along with Dr Rajani Kanth Vangala discussed with the public how these diseases develop, the relevant risk factors, preventive cardiology and so on. This event was live-streamed on the Facebook page of Walk of Life (facebook/walkoflife19), enabling it to reach a larger public. This approach of creating a platform for clinicians and scientists to interact directly with the public truly enhances healthcare, as many public participants use their social media handles to spread awareness about the value of engaging with the clinical and scientific community in improving health.