A recent report finally uncovers the truth behind the facade of Indian healthcare prowess. A report by the institute of health metrics and evaluation places India below even counties like Pakistan. The report which was featured in an article by Times of India.
The article led to think what is actually wrong with India. At one end we are an industrialized nation, in the global exclusive club for niche areas like Missile technology and space research. On the other end we have one of the worst heath parameters in the sub continent?
lets look at life expectancy as a parameter. The life expectancy of an average Indian is 65.21 yrs. This is lower than than of an average Pakistani at 65.73. Also it is only ahead of South Africa at 59.9, which is not a surprise as South Africa as a country is ravaged by HIV. Some key numbers are mentioned here.
And did you know that the average Indian male in 15- 49 age group has more chances of dying due to a road accident than his Pakistani counterpart who would die due to TB. Also the average Indian woman in the same age bracket is more likely to kill herself than fall victim to a acute disease.
But still in this country we have more and more money spent on HIV awareness, Breast cancer awareness and all well meaning good intentioned efforts. But the numbers who a different picture. The numbers show that we need to spend money on road safety, using technology to bring offenders to task. And for the women we need more helplines, counselling and helping them find the right balance between career and family.
But not only is this non glamorous but also below the radar. To get more an answers to this question I put up the discussion on LinkedIn. The discussion can be followed here. Some of the best solutions that came up included
- Universal healthcare- This concept maybe alien to most in India, but western Europe believes in this. According to this concept, Healthcare is a fundamental right, like the right to vote and every Indian should have access to free and good quality health services. This idea though very ideal would require someone to pay for all the free healthcare. In most cases that someone turns out to be tax payers. So considering the number of tax payers in the country, this is not going to work in the immediate future. Also any government initiative comes with its layers of bureaucracy, especially the IAS. Once they come into the picture, the effort would be well governed but not effective.
- Nutrition and Exercise- This is a mush more feasible option. Focusing on Nutrition will definitely reduce our infant mortality rates. But what about road accidents and suicides. But definitely focusing on exercise would reduce our risk for heart attacks and pulmonary diseases. But who decides how much nutrition and exercise would help the Indian population? One possible option could be that the new community medicine professional bill just passed by the health ministry could have all these new professionals who can guide the community through this regimen. It can run in the long term but not in the immediate future.
- Health Insurance- The lesser said the better. But Health Insurance is a sure shot way of making sure that healthcare costs go over the roof. Definitely a bad idea.
- Private Healthcare- A very efficient idea, but again costs will be high as the main motive of the private sector is to make a profit and they cannot be bogged down with all charity that would come with the coping with health of the diaspora.
So in the end there are no answers for the present.
In the long run and for a permanent solution to this problem, we as a community need to come forward and form our own health initiatives. If every locality opens its community health center, and hires its doctors and staff then the cost of healthcare would much lower.
Let me take an example of an apartment block as a community. If all the residents come together, offer some infrastructure and hire a doctor and measure the improvement in health of the residents vs the cost of providing that care then we could see a change in the way healthcvre is delivered and received by the patients.
Do let me know your thoughts on the topic. I would definitely like to hear your views.