India continues to fare poorly on most health parameters. Not surprisingly it was ranked 154th among 195 countries by medical publication Lancet. No surprises that high growth and economic prosperity has not triggered a improvement in the health parameters. India lags on key parameters like Life Expectancy, Infant Mortality. Under 5 mortality and Maternal Mortality.
Countries from the ex-soviet communist block and left leaning countries have done better. A good example is Vietnam which leads on most parameters. In the America’s Nicaragua leads others. Details of some of these are available in this excellent analysis in Livemint.
So what is the solution to this problem ? Many experts believe that increasing the government expenditure as a percentage of the budget spend from the current 5% to around 10-12% should help. These experts may be right. Private sector does not spend on primary care. It is the government that accounts for around 95 % of the expenditure on the primary care, including maternal screening, infant care and vaccine programs. It was under this that polio was tackled and now other diseases like Measles would be managed and hopefully eradicated. If the government does increase expenditure then it may have a direct impact on public health and will improve many of these parameters.
The other question to consider is the complete breakdown of our holistic health system. India had a very robust traditional care system that composed of Diet, Meditation, Yoga and Ayurveda. Most healthcare practices were indigenous to the regions and local healers were responsible for maintaining health standards at the villages.
With the breakdown of the villages and the joint family system, the burden of healthcare has come on the individuals and this is probably one of the biggest reasons for indebtedness in the country.
I would like to pose this question to you. Going forward what do you think India should do to overcome these challenges in healthcare. Despite the growth in GDP our per capita income remains low hence the spend from the government would remain limited. Do write in with your ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org and we would feature the top 3 on the website, The best ideas would be selected for a special prize as a token of our appreciation. Till then to our health.