Designing No-Frills Wellness Centres
”Hum har goan ke gram panchayat me jaakar, ek wellness centre banaiynge” said PM Narendra Modi. How exactly is this plan going to take shape? We talk to R. Chandrashekhar, Chairman IGBC Green Healthcare Rating, Former Chief Architect, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (GoI)
“Let me begin by talking about preventive health. This is not only the easiest but also the most affordable means to remain healthy. Our aim to make India cleaner is connected with our focus on preventive health. You will see the change it will bring in your lives.In this year’s Budget, the Government has given a push to wellness centres and we want every Panchayat to have a wellness centre to cater to the needs of the people,” PM Narendra Modi said earlier on this year.
But a project of this scale, of this magnitude, requires an absurd investment of time, human resources, capital and infrastructure development. Before we dive into the specifics, let’s look into ‘wellness and wellness centres’.
According to Dr. R. Chandrashekar, Chairman IGBC Green Healthcare Rating, Former Chief Architect, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (GoI) - “Wellness is a multi-dimensional state of being which encompasses the physical and emotional aspects of an individual. A wellness center aims at delivering healthcare from a ‘preventive aspect’ as opposed to a ‘curative aspect’; although they do indulge in some curative treatments. However these are restricted to the common ailments such as headaches, nausea etc, and problems predominant to the surrounding areas, for eg. cataract in rural areas. Simply put, it is a day-care facility which is open-to-all for access.”
Wellness is different for rural and urban environments. Although the definition for wellness remains same, the ways to achieve said wellness drastically differ in these two environments, primarily due to the common lifestyle and ailment differences.
So why wellness centres?
As put by Dr. Chandrashekhar - “If there is a wellness center with basic screening facilities, along with medical consultation, then it greatly reduces the burden on the national healthcare ecosystem. Having more wellness centers ensures that the chances of getting ‘Hospital Acquired Infections’ is next to zero.
A wellness center also raises awareness about health-related (physical and emotional) ailments. They also include rehabilitation procedures along the lines of physiotherapy, yoga, acupressure and more. In addition to all of these, wellness centers also provide ‘Stress and Lifestyle Management Consultation’ and ‘Nutrition and Diet Consultation’.”
How does an architect design such centres without wasting any space, or resources?
“The best way to approach this from an architectural standpoint is by way of modules. A modular setup allows wellness centers to include the exact facilities that work in tandem with the existing healthcare infrastructure of the area. In essence, a wellness center does no need to repeat the facilities that already exist in the area.” says Dr. Chandrashekhar.
But that’s not all there is to it. It’s not just about creating a minimal structure. “The wellness center complex must be designed keeping in mind the principles of ‘healing architecture’, while offering space for the various activities it entails. Proper landscaping, environment creation and latest healthcare technologies are vital to ensure the success of a wellness center.” adds Dr. Chandrashekar, who continues, “When it comes to narrowing down the location for a wellness center, we prefer residential areas with less noise and air pollution that offer 24/7 electricity and water facilities. The area must be patient-friendly and have an environment that facilitates a speedy recovery.”
These points primarily refer to a space aspect. However, there are creative strategies one can employ to ensure doctors, and patients make the most from the wellness centres. One such idea proposed by Dr. Chandrashekar goes - “Another aspect to help increase the efficiency(thereby reducing cost) is by allowing for a public-private partnership (PPP). For eg, areas can be dedicated to doctors and diagnosticians within the wellness center in the form of leases. This greatly benefits the patients, and the doctors by getting both these stakeholders in the same physical space.”
What’s the end goal here?
On a concluding note, Dr. Chandrashekar adds, “In the long run, using the right technology, correct methodology of operations and enabling higher PPP participation, wellness centers can achieve a great deal by simply acting as a screening center for speciality hospitals.”
If the government can even come close to achieving such a mission, then it is safe to say that India’s healthcare woes will gradually reduce.