Alumni Profile: Urvashi Prasad

Urvashi Prasad (MSc Public Health in Developing Countries, 2014) currently works as a Director for the Development Monitoring & Evaluation Office (DMEO) at the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog). In this blog, Urvashi shares her achievements since graduating and how COVID-19 has affected her work.
Urvashi Prasad outside LSHTM Keppel Street

Why did you decide to study at LSHTM?

I wanted to supplement my previous undergraduate and postgraduate studies in Life Sciences, and my passion for working in developing countries, with an MSc in Public Health. I chose LSHTM because it is world-renowned for public health education and research.

How has your degree at LSHTM complemented your career?

Public health is a complex field. My training at LSHTM has helped me understand various dimensions of evidence-based policymaking, including balancing trade-offs while prioritising and optimising resources. An appreciation of these nuances is critical when working on policy response to a range of health challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

Were the relationships you formed at LSHTM useful – in what way?

It is wonderful to have a network of classmates working in public health in different capacities worldwide. I have called upon my peers for advice, and there might also be concrete opportunities to collaborate on initiatives in the future.

Please summarise your achievements over the years and how you feel about them?

I am currently a Director and part of the senior management team at the Development Monitoring & Evaluation Office, NITI Aayog, the country's apex M&E office. Previously, I worked as a Public Policy Specialist in the Office of the Vice Chairman at NITI Aayog, the premier policy think tank of the Indian Government, providing policy and directional inputs in various economic and social sectors. I have been part of the core team supporting the Government of India's Empowered Group 1 to manage the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. I have also been a member of the task force for overseeing the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals in India and co-authored India’s first Voluntary National Review, presented at the United Nation’s High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in 2017. Before NITI Aayog, I led the health, water and sanitation portfolio of the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation in India. I am a member of the World Economic Forum’s Expert Network and an alumnus of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Community.

The most satisfying part of my career has been to work on initiatives that have made a tangible difference to the lives of people living in difficult circumstances. For instance, when I led sanitation programmes, and families from urban slums in India would tell me how access to a toilet has changed their lives for the better.

What do you hope to further achieve in your field in the future?

I hope to continue to influence public policies with the ultimate objective of bettering people's lives and reducing inequities in access to essential health, nutrition and other services. In my current role at DMEO, I also hope to strengthen data systems for the effective monitoring and evaluation of public policies and programmes. Data, after all, is the new oil!

How has COVID-19 affected your work?

Given that we are faced with a global public health emergency, the focus of my work (and that of my institution) has been on defining the policy response during the pandemic and the post-COVID-19 era. It is apparent that we cannot simply return to business as usual. The “new normal” will be characterised not just by challenges but also several opportunities in digital health, telemedicine, supply chain management and design of workplaces. We need to put in place the policies and mechanisms for addressing the challenges caused or exacerbated by the pandemic as well as maximising the opportunities it has created for building back better.

What advice do you have for current students?

The time at LSHTM goes by very quickly, so make the most of it! In addition to the School’s resources and Faculty, make sure to tap into the experiences of fellow students. There is a lot of diversity and expertise amongst the students themselves.

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