Having spent 15 years as a clinician, Prof. Prabhakaran was drawn to research and population sciences, but was not sure if the move would be right for him. Two things convinced him. “During a two-year fellowship at McMaster University in Canada, I saw the extent of change that could be brought about by this type of research,” he said. “Then, a few years later in 2006, PHFI was launched and was looking to build multidisciplinary teams that would help to implement public health policies. That was the decision made for me.”
Among his many achievements, Prof. Prabhakaran said that, “One of the most satisfying parts of my research has been establishing large population cohorts in India for the study of, particularly, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. We have data on 20,000 fully phenotyped individuals, with long-term follow-up and almost 400,000 aliquots of blood for future research.” He is also very proud of the work he and his team have conducted in evaluating task shifting and mobile‐phone-based solutions for providing personalised patient management, and in synthesising and disseminating information for policy makers as part of the Disease Control Priorities Project.1 Last, but not least, is the success of the large-scale collaborations he has helped to foster. “Our Centre for Control of Chronic Conditions is a collaboration between the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Emory University, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the PHFI,” he explained. “And we have forged collaborations with other groups in the US, UK and Canada to perform research that provides solutions for all countries involved.” This concept of ‘everyone is a winner’ is central to Prof. Prabhakaran’s Geoffrey Rose Lecture.
Looking ahead, population research and the implementation of its findings face a difficult road ahead. “One of the biggest challenges is that the emphasis continues to be on the treatment of disease rather than its prevention, and we need to work hard to shift the balance,” said Prof. Prabhakaran. “Another problem is that treatments for cardiovascular disease are very expensive and we urgently need to find low-cost options.” Other challenges he identified include resistance to the implementation of evidence-based secondary prevention measures and the emerging problems of environmental pollution, climate change and an ageing population. According to Prof. Prabhakaran, among future initiatives, implementation of science-based solutions, and using new methods, such as digital technologies to increase the availability of knowledge, access and care may be part of the answer.