The COVID-19 pandemic has put the spotlight on the public health sector and the extraordinary effort involved in protecting the health of our communities. This effort includes collaboration between public and private corporations, government agencies, and nonprofits such as Vital Strategies. 

Established in 2016, Vital Strategies is a global organisation with regional hubs in Singapore and China. It believes that every person deserves to be protected by a strong public health system that helps them lead long, productive, and healthy lives.

Dr. Siddhi Aryal, Regional Director for Vital Strategies Asia Pacific, recently joined us for our Future of Work, Now podcast. He talked about the public health sector and what organisations like Vital Strategies are doing to make an impact. He also shared his journey in public health and his perspective on why we should start preparing now for what comes after COVID-19. 

Here are some highlights from the conversation with Dr Aryal:


From institutional equities to public health

Dr. Aryal is a well-known leader in the Asia-Pacific region’s public health sector. He has spent more than 18 years helping to protect communities from diseases such as malaria. Our podcast host Asha Popatlal asked what led him to where he is now and Dr. Aryal shared that he began his career in institutional equities. The desire to do something more meaningful inspired him to leave his job and return to his native Nepal.

At the time, Nepal was in the middle of a civil war and Dr. Aryal wanted to support the country’s young people. This led to his work with UNICEF and the establishment of a radio program called Chatting with My Best Friend. The program offered an outlet for youth to talk about topics such as health, relationships, and education. 

“The program became hugely popular and the experience was so amazing to me that I decided to continue studying public health,” said Dr. Aryal.

Dr. Aryal earned a Masters of Science from University College London before completing his PhD in Health Systems from Tulane University. He then went on to hold a number of leadership roles in public health, including Asia Director for the Malaria Consortium.


Improving lives through collaboration

At Vital Strategies, Dr. Aryal and his team work at both policy and grassroots levels to strengthen public health systems. This work involves collecting and using data to inform government action as well as coordinating campaigns to influence public behaviour. 

Everything Vital Strategies does is in partnership with governments and other local entities. It is also focused on areas where it can make the biggest impact. Right now, COVID-19 is one of these and Vital Strategies has done a lot of work in strengthening surveillance of the disease.

During the podcast, Dr. Aryal talked about the importance of data in health and the need for more transparency between countries.

Countries hesitate to share data, but for the whole of humanity, one country cannot stand above another. What we’re seeing with COVID-19 is that we must fend for one another and that is the message I’d like to share.”

Dr. Siddhi Aryal | Regional Director for Vital Strategies Asia Pacific


Public health beyond the pandemic

Asked if we’ll beat COVID-19, Dr. Aryal suggested that with good news coming from multiple vaccine manufacturers, the big question for him is about what happens the next time a pandemic hits. He indicated that public health is an issue that has been underfunded in the past and COVID-19 has exacerbated previous health crises. 

“The challenge will be to keep talking about public health in a way that brings about sustainable solutions. If we don’t build public health systems from the ground up [to be stronger], we are going to find ourselves in the same situation over and over again,” said Dr. Aryal. 

The doctor’s outlook is positive though and he sees young people making a big impact. “I think young people are living at times which are extremely promising and there are so many ways they can make a difference, whether it is by working with communities and policy makers, designing new programs, or using technologies like AI or new media.”

The opportunities presented by technology are especially exciting, but Dr. Aryal said the basics of public health will continue to be important. "We have to continue to work with people on the ground, communicate with them effectively, and build the health system blocks we need to manage these diseases that will come back to us time and again."


Learn more about Dr. Aryal’s work and how he’s helping to tackle other public health challenges by listening to the full podcast. Access the podcast on demand at our podcasts page, Spotify, and iTunes. You can also listen over at the Singapore Community Radio Twitch page, Facebook page, and website

Tune into our next episode with Ebony Beckwith, Chief Philanthropy Officer of Salesforce. This episode will be out at 1:00 p.m. SGT Friday, December 18. 

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