The Unprecedented Times: Siddharth Srivastava

I think it would be fair to say that 2020 has shifted the collective consciousness of humanity toward realising the importance of public health. COVID–19 has constituted a level of suffering hitherto incomparable to all infectious disease outbreaks that have preceded it. In the span of just a few months, the pandemic has reshaped the very nature of our perceived normalcy.

At a personal level, anxiety associated with uncertainty regarding the future, worries about the health of my family, and separation from loved ones has, at times, felt overwhelming. This of course is unequaled to the tangible and intangible losses countless families and health workers around the globe have sustained as a consequence of the pandemic. The silver lining for me this year, however, has been to think critically about the responsibility I bear as an emerging public health professional in the times to come, in advocating for equitable health systems reform and in mediating multidisciplinary partnerships in public health. Reflections of how a tiny virus consisting of the most basic form of genetic material has exposed anew, glaring inequities in the increasingly neoliberal ideologies that undergird the health systems of today has been as humbling as it has been existential.

It is my hope that onward of 2021, multidisciplinary collaborations fostered by organizations like the International Working Group for Health Systems Strengthening serve as the proverbial building blocks for the creation of health systems that work for all, not just a few. I strongly believe that collaboration is a key piece of the puzzle in solving complex global challenges across vastly different local contexts. It’s imperative to capitalize on the window of opportunity for improvement that has presented itself in the current scenario. I am cautiously optimistic about what lies ahead and look forward to contributing to the betterment of health systems and policy through my research.

At the present moment however, I’m trying to focus on the little things, like cleaning my room, exercising, practicing gratitude and searching for ways to overcome the procrastination I’m facing while writing my thesis by watching cat motivation videos on YouTube. For as I have come to find, incremental improvement of little things, the ones that hide in plain sight across both health systems and life, isn’t really that little after all!

Siddharth Srivastava, SEAR

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