Technology is An Enabler Across Diagnostics to Treatment and Drug Delivery

AstraZeneca leading manufacturer of pharmaceutical products is passionate about sustainability. Its sustainability actions are focused around 3 key areas – access to healthcare, environmental protection, and ethics and transparency.

AstraZeneca focuses on the area where its capability lies and where it can make the most meaningful impact — health. Within this, they prioritize programmes that increase access to healthcare. In India, many patients, especially women, do not even reach hospitals due to lack of awareness about various diseases. The sustainability programmes encompass the entire pipeline of prevention, early diagnosis and effective treatment. The Young Health Programme (YHP) of AstraZeneca aims to make the most meaningful impact here, in prevention of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). It aims to make a meaningful difference to the health and well-being of the marginalised and disadvantaged young boys and girls by helping them make informed choices to protect their health. It does this by spreading awareness of diseases through Health Information Centres and training adolescents to become Peer Educators, who engage and inform their peers and the community on health issues. Till date the programme has supported 350,000 young people including 3500 young people trained as peer educators. According to Gagan Singh Bedi, Managing Director, AstraZeneca India, “This programme has been truly inspirational for me for the manner in which these adolescent children make a huge impact among their peers, their parents and the community around them. Their energy has been amazing.”

Apart from the Young Health Programme AstraZeneca in partnership with India Cancer Society runs a programme called the Ganga Godavari programme. This is the Early Cancer Screening and Awareness Programme for women, especially in areas where access to healthcare facilities are constrained. The key components of this programme include specialised cancer screening camps for women for oral, breast and cervical cancer. The program also creates awareness through health education activities in the community and has a robust follow up process to ensure referral for treatment at cancer hospitals. The company also runs the Early Action in Diabetes programme given the widespread incidence of diabetes in India.

Gagan believes that “sustainable health goes hand in hand with sustainable environment”. The firm makes significant efforts in environmental protection. The approach is two-pronged – environment protection in operations and enabling change in employee mindset. The company has a LEED gold certified facility, 70% of its power requirements are met by solar grid and it undertakes rainwater harvesting on its premises. At the employee level, the focus is on behaviour change, whether it is getting PET bottles off the table, or growing their own farm or encouraging bird nesting. The firm strongly believes that this mindset change impacts not just employees, but also their families and communities. They encourage their employees to volunteer time and effort for communities too.

Ethics are important for a pharmaceutical company where lives are at stake. For AstraZeneca, ethics go beyond documented policies and codes. Employees are enabled to voice their opinions on the actions of the company and a constant dialogue with the employees ensures that ethical standards are imbibed by them. A typical session involves senior managers discussing with their staff unique situations emerging from the challenges in the workspace and beyond. These could be themes around compliance, HR, sales etc. The outcomes are like case studies on how to handle a particular situation. Gagan feels that dynamic conversations are a great way to involve employees in thinking about ethics and transparency. It also keeps them more satisfied with the workplace. He says, ”89 per cent of our employees believe that Astra Zeneca is a great place to work and 95% of our people believe in the sustainability goals which also include ethics and transparency.”

An area that AstraZeneca is passionate about is diversity and inclusiveness. Globally, 45% of its managerial staff is women. Women are breaking boundaries across the organization. They are participating and driving the organization across functions like commercial operations, R&D, and manufacturing. 40% of the board seats are occupied by women. Gagan says, “The participation at these levels ensures that role models are developed, thereby building the culture and fabric of the organisation. Even at senior levels, whether it is the global leader for operations Pam Cheng or Margareta Ozolins for Asia Pacific and Japan or Mina Patel heading operations in India, they lead the way.”

Technology and its impact on healthcare industry is another dimension that AstraZeneca is passionate about. Gagan believes “…technology can be a huge enabler across the value chain starting from diagnostics to treatment and drug delivery. It can help significantly bring down costs, enhance quality of treatment as well as its access.”

Based on a conversation with Gagan Singh Bedi, Managing Director, AstraZeneca Pharma India Limited