India—a study in contrasts with a population of 1.3 billion people—is a compelling place to carry out public health interventions and research. While key health indicators such as life expectancy have improved, India is also home to one-third of the world’s poorest people. Undernutrition and health care disparities are now coupled with the challenges of an epidemiological transition leading to an increased prevalence of cancer and diabetes.
The establishment of the India Research Center represents a natural progression toward creating mutually beneficial collaborations between partners in India and the Harvard Chan School. The center opened in December 2015 through a generous gift from Swati Piramal, MPH ’92, and her husband, Ajay Piramal, a graduate of Harvard Business School.
This transformative gift allowed the School to build upon its half-century of work by establishing a new physical presence in Mumbai. With the vision of promoting research, training, and knowledge translation, the center aims to build local public health capacity across the health sector in India. Through research and collaborations with Indian public health entities like the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, the center is working closely with Harvard faculty and researchers on diverse public health issues such as policy communication, implementation science, quality of care, tobacco control, nutrition, and mental health.
“By building capacity, translating evidence, and helping in designing scalable interventions that improve the health of both the poor and emerging middle class,” says Kasisomayajula “Vish” Viswanath, Lee Kum Kee Professor of Health Communication and director of the India Research Center, “we can not only make a difference in India, but also show that solutions to public health problems in India can potentially be used in middle-income countries around the world.