Healthcare in India

Both happiness and well-being are attributed to a person having a good health. Better health is always central to a happy and prosperous life. A person with a sound brain residing in healthy body produces more and yields better results out of his tasks. Further, a healthy and productive population has always remained important for economic progress, and will continue to do so. Therefore good health of the population has always been a key issue in public policy decisions in almost every society. To address these issues every society has its own healthcare sector.

Healthcare not only covers medical health but also confides in it all the necessary preventive measures and acts to avoid any kind of disease or ailment. This organized provision of medical care to individuals and community is served by healthcare systems; public or private. These health care systems function as institutions and organizations with qualified and licensed professionals and desired resources employed to meet the health need of people. Health care system in India is universal in its nature, guaranteed by its constitution to all its citizens. It extends through various policies and programmes initiated by the Government of India such as National Health Mission, National Health Policy and so on. These programmes are headed by commissions set up under Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Indian health care system has been successful in driving out small pox and guinea worm. Also, life expectancy has almost doubled since the time of independence and infant mortality rate has seen a decline. From limiting the spread of HIV/AIDS to India being declared ‘Polio-free’ by WHO, healthcare system has been able to bring a significant change in the health scenario of the country. Yet, despite of all its achievements and its rapid expansion, Indian healthcare system is still struggling towards a better future.

Plagued with a number of problems, Indian health sector faces a huge pressure on healthcare infrastructure. Lack of funds remains central to the issue. Low spending on health sector by government has increased the financial burden on individuals. Most individuals have to pay from their own pocket to avail medical facilities. This out-of-pocket spending raises the issue of affordability among large parts of population that continue to remain poor in this country. These people often thrive on public healthcare services which are not only limited but are also poor in standards. Healthcare facilities at public end are poorly managed often facing the problems of lack of staff and resources. This majorly impacts the rural section of the society. What adds coal to the fire is the problem of accessibility. Big geographical gaps prevent these people from availing these facilities. Stating this I get reminded of a Community Outreach Project which I was a part of. Placed in Melghat, a project named Maitri every year undertakes the task of fighting the problems of acute mal nutrition and other related diseases among children of tribal population that reside in the region. Geographically hard to access, Melghat is situated in the suburbs of Maharashtra and covers several villages predominantly occupied by Korku tribe. The persistent environment conditions in the region are conducive to various infections. The situation worsens with the arrival of monsoons. Unhealthy and unhygienic living conditions of the people, partly due to lack of awareness and partly due to lack of will on the part of government, breed diseases such as scabies, pneumonia, acute diarrhea and other infections. Primary Health Centre of the area is situated miles away from the village with no transportation facility available for the people, making it hard for them to reach there when required. There are two doctors and a nurse in PHC with minimal possible equipments and medicines available. This further complicates the situation. Nothing has been done about the existing poor management and lack of resources at the place. Further, assigned role of ASHA and Anganwadi has run into failure due to inefficiency at work and corrupt intentions they hold. All these combined together works in favour of the existing poor conditions of children and other people of the tribe. Rural India thus, continues to suffer from challenges in delivery of health care services.

Contrary to this, failure of government has paved way for rapid expansion in private healthcare in urban areas. Equipped with better infrastructure and having a pool of educated and well-trained medical officials and staff, private healthcare system has loomed large in the healthcare sector. Yet, it has its own set of shortcomings and systemic malfunctioning. Highly unregulated, this sector tends to exploit people financially. Only people who can afford expensive care seek their services. Additionally the problem of over diagnosis and over-treatment are also common. Prescription of unwanted drugs, recommending unnecessary tests and receiving commissions for these recommendations are all their adopted ways of minting money.

Similar is the case with community health services and preventive medicines, delivery of both lies much below the desired level. The shortcoming of community health in India primarily lies in the fact that those who are trained in community health do not hold any authority in making decisions. Rather, these important positions in the government are handled by those minister and bureaucrats who have minimum knowledge and least training on the topic.

Though government has taken a number of measures in improving the conditions of the healthcare sector in past few years, yet much more needs to be done. The Indian healthcare system needs to take necessary steps both at delivery front and policy front. The focus should not merely be on making the healthcare system more affordable and accessible but also more transparent and ethical. Idea of universal health coverage, as suggested by WHO, needs to be encouraged and promoted. Every citizen of the country should be able to access the required healthcare without having the fear of suffering major financial risks. Further the proportion of budgetary spending needs to be increased to improve country’s healthcare. Since it is not money that will solely solve the problem but how this money is used is also important. Therefore a clear bifurcation of how this increased expenditure should be invested should also be made. In addition to continued funding of National Health Mission, government should also expand its services through Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna and other insurance programmes. Bangladesh, despite being one of the poorest countries of the world, has been successful in improving the health status of its people by focusing on child health interventions like compulsory vaccinations, oral rehydration, maternal and child health services and other family planning programmes. India needs to learn from its neighbours like Bangladesh. For instance, India still needs to improve its vaccination coverage for children across the country. Further, government of India has been ignorant about preventive medicines and community healthcare measures. India today is home to both infectious and chronic diseases. It therefore, becomes the priority of the government to focus on their prevention. For India to improve the quality and accessibility of its health care sector policy makers of the country need to adopt a more innovative and pragmatic approach while making decisions regarding concerned issues.

It is tragic to note that Indian healthcare system has failed to keep pace with overall economic growth of the country. On its road to success, our country needs to overcome many hurdles. Especially with one of its most important sector remaining underdeveloped, it is not only hard but nearly impossible to imagine a developed India.

[author image=”http://www.aapkatimes.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Shreya-Jakhmola.jpg” ]I am Shreya Jakhmola student at Symbiosis School of Liberal Arts, Pune. With a keen interest in social issues, I wish to serve my country for its better and prosperous future. [/author]