Striving towards a healthy nation
In a recently held discussion on “Health and Development: India Must Bridge the Disconnect” organised by the India Habitat Centre and the Society for Policy Studies in Delhi, noted public health expert K Srinath Reddy said the health of citizens and the economy of their nation go hand in hand and “every buck spent on the former guarantees a manifold increase in the latter”.
And indeed, there is not an iota of doubt in what Reddy had said. Several studies across the globe have undisputedly corroborated the fact that health is instrumental to a person’s education, income and overall development. A healthy population can make a nation wealthy. Many studies have demonstrated that health capital contributes more to wealth than other dimensions.
As a nation, India too has made good progress in the health sector. Today India is healthier than ever before. We have eradicated smallpox and polio and are making progress with regard to leprosy, AIDS and various other diseases.
However, still there remains a lot to be done, especially when compared against the Millennium Development Goals.
The main bane of the Indian healthcare system is the affordability and lack of health infrastructure and professionals. According to various reports, the ratio of doctors is six times lower in rural India than in urban India. In fact, it is no secret that till today people in rural areas have to traverse several kilometres to access medical facilities. What can be the more saddest moment than a doctor telling a patient that he has a disease which is treatable but not affordable?
Against this backdrop, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent call for a robust public healthcare system in India is a welcome step. Aiming at changing India's healthcare scenario and putting emphasis on providing affordable healthcare for the poor, the Prime Minister had recently pitched hard for preventive healthcare and public service through collective measures.
In fact, the work in this regard has already been started. Our Cover Story reflects the efforts being taken by the Union Health Ministry to create an environment in the country where any Indian citizen can rightfully walk into a hospital without being worried about the expenses.
The new proposed National Health Policy 2017 which espoused a strong public health approach and commitment to strengthening the public sector looks promising. But the real challenge lies in its operational amplification and effective implementation which call for a stronger Centre-State coordination.
Though the Health Ministry claims that there has been “excellent coordination” between the Centre and the States for the last two-three years like never before, it remains to be seen how quickly the Union Government can strengthen the public sector, how effectively it can ramp up the health workforce to reach all sections of the population and how efficiently the Central and State Governments can actually team up and take the health agenda forward.