Investments In Health Infra: The Best Defence Of All

Tariq Ahmad Dar
As per the Global Health Security index, that ranks assessment in health security and related capabilities across 195 Countries, suggest that not a single country in the world is fully prepared to handle an epidemic or pandemic and further stated that every country has health security gapes. Countries are not prepared for globally catastrophic biological events. Let me take you through some data based information related to Indian health care system. Talking about the Indian health care system, although, India has improved its ranking on global health care access and quality (HAQ) Index from 153 in 1990 to 120 in 2019 but, India continues to lag behind most of the countries in terms of health care facilities. The country spends just 3.7% of gross domestic product on health care in 2016, putting it in the bottom 25 of nations globally, according to the most recent World Bank data. Despite the health sector employing 5 million workers in India, India continues to have a low density of health professionals with figures for the country being lower than those of srilanka, China, Thailand, US, and Brazil, according to WHO data base and had in turn put the country into the “critical stage of health care providers”. India has around 70 hospital beds per 100,000 people; in contrast to it Italy has 420 hospital beds per 100,000 people. India has around 3.4 qualified doctors and 3.2 nurses and midwives per 1000 population. In contrast China and Italy have 18 and 23 nurses per 1000 population. So, there exist huge disparities between India and other well developed countries which India must fill up in order to improve its global health ranking. With India being a huge and densely populated Country, the Country where almost 75% of the population live in rural areas i.e. villages. Therefore, there lies a huge challenge before India in terms of providing and making available the health care facilities to this large section of population residing in rural areas. The last decade has seen emergence of India on the global map. However, the shadow of shining India lies beyond it. Taking the investment perspective in consideration, we see, India is still short of 2 million hospital beds that will cost India almost 8 billion US $ for filling this wide gap in health care system. In fact 82% of India’s expenditure on health is from private sector investment. With that sort of private expenditure in India’s health space, the health cure is going to be very expensive. So, how this gap is minimized and more public health facilities are encouraged, will define the India’s position in global health ranking. What needs to be done is that government and the policy makers should encourage investments and to address the issues like making clean drinking water available, suitable disposal of garbage, mosquito control and wiping out their breeding sites, and the most important i.e. education. It will almost decrease the disease burden by 50% which is a lofty improvement. Millions of Indians living in rural areas still don’t have access to even basic health care facilities. There is a desperate need of investment in providing basic health care facilities to the most downtrodden and marginalized segment of population. The government can also play an important role in building preventive health care programs, private and civil societies can also help. Also the private sector in a public private partnership (PPP) model can provide high end tertiary care. The government in PPP model can provide the basic health care services. The government can also setup disease prevention programs in private partnership.
The government should always prepare for the worst while hoping for the best.
It can provide vaccination and sanitation and also focus on medical education. Kerala’s experience in 2018 with deadly Nipah virus showed the value of investing in health over the long term. The availability of equipments for quick diagnosis, public information campaigns all helped to keep mortality rate at very low. India can still utilize its resources to make best out of them. So, there is a desperate need that India continues to take aggressive action at public health level. In fact, we should never forget that in 1979, India surprised the whole world by eradicating the small pox. The virus that killed more people on earth then all the wars put together. India through targeted public health intervention eradicated that virus and gave a great gift to the World. India also fought the war against polio, another silent killer. Recently the WHO stated and praised India for its best and tremendous capacities and capabilities to combat the deadly COVID-19. We should always remember that the worst is yet to come and we are all ill prepared. The government and the people should always prepare for the worst while hoping for the best.

(The author is pursuing B.Sc (HONS) at AMU, Aligarh. Views are his own, ahmadtariqon@gmail.com)

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