Healthcare in India

One of the most generic of quotes used literally everywhere is, health is wealth and it seems we have taken it quite literally, judging by the fact that as poor the people are, so is the entire healthcare system. Healthcare in India, home to about 1.2 billion people, is in shambles. Be it quantitative or qualitative wise, the system is in a sad state.

To begin with, there is a lack of even a comprehensive study on Healthcare.  It gets difficult to get to a solution when you don’t know what exactly is the problem. When I say that there is a lack of a comprehensive study, what I mean is that there is no study into the cause and effect relationship, there is no search for a beginning point, of the problem.

Health is defined by WHO as a state of complete physical,  mental and social wellbeing. But how do you even measure health? Complications arise when you start measuring the health of an individual. Life expectancy at Birth or the mortality rate or female’s maternity health, all these measures don’t provide an accurate picture. Today we use measures like DALY ( disability adjusted life index) ,  this measures the gap between the current health situation and the ideal health situation. What makes this process difficult, is the fact that our country has an immense population, so a study of any kind will take a lot of hard work.

The current healthcare in our country is divided into two categories, the one for the rich and the other for the poor. Its simple math, you add money to sickness, you get good health, you add poverty to sickness, you get more sickness and possible death. I might sound morbid, but It’s the truth. The reason for this inequality, is because, health sector is privatised in our country. In 2015, India’s public expenditure on public healthcare was one percent of the GDP, imagine something as important as healthcare getting only 1% funding. Is it any wonder then, that most Indians have no health insurance? to be honest, the majority of the population doesn’t even know what health insurance is.

This entire situation worsens when private sector enters this market. Then its literally all about money and the simple math I mentioned before. Why is one of the most important sectors left in the hands of the private sector ? America is a capitalist economy and still the healthcare is under the government’s agenda. We are supposed to be a mixed economy, leaning towards socialism, yet government plays a very small role.

However, things are changing, the new NDA government, launched Ayushman Bharat, which means Long Life India, to address the illness. This initiative, has been described as the “world’s biggest healthcare programme” will insure more than 500 million Indian citizens who currently have no health coverage. The programme hopes to expand the public health network far beyond the existing government hospitals.  

The paradox associated with the entire healthcare is mind-blowing. India’s healthcare is one of the cheapest in the world, yet Indians can’t afford it.

Most hospitals in India are overburdened, understaffed and ill-equipped. However, all this has not prevented the private healthcare sector to establish sophisticated medical tourism facilities on the planks of ‘world class service at low cost’. We treat so many foreigners, but still can’t treat one of our own.

India has less than 1 doctor for every 1000 population which is the standard as prescribed by WHO. On one hand, there is a major dearth of medical health professionals, and on the other , most of the people cannot afford the help provided by the available medics.

This brings us to a situation in which the obvious solution will be, to push people to become doctors. However, the pressure in India to become a doctor is as common as is the presence of self-professed doctors in every household. The crux of the problem lies in the lack of good quality medical colleges and institution. This lack results in the overwhelming competition that students face to become a doctor.

Healthcare needs urgent attention in India. We are still at the stage of communicable diseases, a stage which the developed nations crossed a long time ago. Its largely falls on the government to create an awareness among people about various diseases and even about issues of basic sanitation. We have a long way to go and the government better buckle up.