COVID More of a ‘Behavioral Issue’, Focus More on Lifestyle and Strengthen the System- Dr M R Seetharam


To discuss the ways to tackle the spread of the second wave of COVID in rural areas, the Centre for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies (CHURS) and Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi organized a Panel Discussion on “Rural Realities | Karnataka Practitioners’ Experiences in Tackling the Second Wave” on May 21, 2021.

The esteemed panelists were Dr. Basavaraju R Shreshta, Executive Director, Grassroots Research And Advocacy Movement (GRAAM), Mysore. Dr. Priya ShanmugamFaculty, Department of Economics, Mount Carmel College Autonomous, Bengaluru. Mr. Leo SaldanhaFounding Trustee and Coordinator, Environment Support Group, Bengaluru.

Mr. Nitesh Kumar JangirCo-Founder, Coeo Labs Pvt. Ltd. (An InnAccel Division), Bengaluru. Dr. Purnima MadhivananAssociate Professor, Public Health, Mel and Enid Zuckerman College, The University of Arizona. Dr. Nazrul HaqueAssistant Professor, Azim Premji University, BengaluruDr. M R SeetharamConsultant Orthopedic surgeon, Vivekananda Memorial Hospital; Core Member, SVYM and Dr. Jyotsna Jha, Director, Centre for Budget and Policy Studies (CBPS), Bengaluru as the discussant.

The moderator of the session was Prof Krishna Raj, Professor, Institute for Social and Economic Change (ISEC), Bangalore.

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Human- Centric Approach

Dr. MR Seetharam hasthree-decade community connect as a doctor. He mentioned that health is not just an absence of infirmity or disease but a positive state of well- being. The objective is to ensure that person is stable and is productive physically, economically and socially and leads a happy life. A human-centric approach is crucial.

It is important that health security reaches the right people. We have to build resilience for the long- term future.

“COVID is more of a behavioral issue. We need to focus more on lifestyle and strengthen the system”


In rural areas, there is reliance on traditional home remedies. There is collective response to illness in the family. People in rural areas have a culture of doing things together and have calendarized public events, like- festivals and temple fairs which are unavoidable according to them.

The major issues in rural areas are dependence on Quacks, preference on small time clinics, lack of trust in Gov hospitals, Gossips and rumors, incomplete disclosure of information. There is a ladder to disaster in rural areas and the conception that it will not happen to me. There is widespread stigma.

There is a need for an epidemiological approach and not just a medical or clinical approach. Health determinants need to be addressed adequately. We have to reach rural communities on their terms and keep it simple. A holistic multi- pronged approach is the need of the hour. Capacity building programs for the local people can go a long way. We have to network and work together.

There has to be an ABCD Model: A -attitude change, B- behavioral change, C- control spread, and D- Disease management. Equitable and inclusive approach is needed. Community institutions embedded in the health system like- ARS and ASHA workers and institutions embedded in other departments can be really helpful. There has to be collaborative initiatives. Dr. Seetharam concluded by saying that we should Never give up and be hopeful in life. There are strong lessons taught by the community which can’t be found in books!

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