Current status of health problems in India

The oldest definition of health given by WHO states that, “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease”. It is very important to consider the health condition of a Nation while researching about it. It aids in making a nation, developed one. There are other factors which include environmental, biological, socio-economic factors, information and communication, availability of health services, utilization of health services, age structure of the population etc. By influencing these factors we may play quiet a substantial role in improving the health.

What is public health?

Public health is defined as an “Art and Science of protecting and improving the health of a community through an organized and systematic effort that includes education, provision of health services and protection of the public from exposures that will cause harm”. Thus, public health approach is to deal with all these factors which require multi sectoral coordination. Health care includes medical care and care of the determinants of health (this collective approach will help to improve the health of the community). It solves the issues of the public by promotion, adequate health awareness programmes, rehabilitations, etc.  Other important functions are developing partnerships, formulation of regulations/laws, planning/policies and Human Resources Development.

Health status and care in India

India has always been in the lime light for being one of the most prominent countries which face a lot of health hazards. India has both urban and rural sector thereby the health conditions vary accordingly. In urban India, health is more of a political issue rather than social. They held disputes over the country facing bigger challenges such as economic development, infrastructure, jobs, and border differences with Pakistan. The case is different in case of rural population as they face the maximum problems due to inadequate solutions. Over the period of time, some of the dangerous communicable diseases have found a cure and the expansion of the treatments are commendable. Yet more of the health hazards are pending and rural population face the most of it. There is prevailing inequality in health status due to varying economic, social and political causes. Developing countries like India currently face a TRIPLE BURDEN of diseases from:

  • Unfinished agenda of Communicable Diseases.
  • Emerging Non-communicable disease related to lifestyles, and
  • Emerging Infectious Diseases.

This high burden of disease, disability and death can only be addressed through an effective public health system.

5 things about Indian healthcare system that you need to know

1.   Rural and urban division

Despite of having such huge market, India spends only 4.2 of its national GDP towards healthcare goods and services (compared to 18% by the US). More than 70% of the population lives in rural areas and they have no access to any dispensary or health institutions. In contrast to that, urban population has more than enough hospitals, clinics. So if the government would take extra measures for the improvement of rural conditions, it would be beneficial for the health standards of India.

2.   Need for effective payment

Besides the rural-urban divide, another key factor of India’s healthcare scenario is the high out-of-pocket expenditure (roughly 70%). This means that most Indian patients pay for their hospital visits and doctors’ appointments with straight up cash after care with no payment arrangements.  According to the World Bank and National Commission’s report on Macroeconomics, only 5% of Indians are covered by health insurance policies. Such a low figure has only facilitated the rich, middle class people and it never provided any money back to the poor. Nevertheless, the penetration of the health insurance market has been increasing over the years; it has been one of the fastest-growing segments of business in India. Currently the Indian government has originated programmes including the Community Health Insurance programme for the population below poverty line (like Medicaid in the US) and Life Insurance Company (LIC) policy for senior citizens (like Medicare in the US). All these plans are monitored and controlled by the government-run General Insurance Corporation, which is designed for people to pay upfront cash and then get reimbursed by filing a claim.

3.   Need for basic health care facilities and infrastructure

India has the highest number of TB (tuberculosis) patients. Out of 9.2 million cases of TB that occur in the world every year, nearly 1.9 million occur in India which accounts for one-fifth of the global TB cases. Experts estimate that about 2.5 million persons have HIV infection in India. This is nearly 7.6% of the global burden of 33 million cases. More than 1.5 million persons are affected with malaria every year. Almost half of them suffer from falciparum malaria. One third of global cases infected with filarial disease live in India. Nearly half of leprosy cases detected in the world in 2007 were contributed by India. More than 300 million episodes of acute diarrhea occur every year in India in children below 5 years of age. Although data are limited, perhaps more than 35 million persons are carriers of viral hepatitis B.

These diseases are very harmful and hence we need to take care of the sanitation, open hospitals that people can reach in emergency. Building up infrastructures, standardizing diagnostic procedures, building rural clinics, and developing streamlined health IT systems, and improving efficiency should help in ensuring the health of individuals.

4.   Growing pharmaceutical sector

According to the Indian Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), India is the third-largest exporter of pharmaceutical products in terms of volume. Around 80% of the market is composed of generic low-cost drugs which seem to be the major driver of this industry .The increase in the ageing population, rising incomes of the middle class, and the development of primary care facilities are expected to shape the pharmaceutical industry in future. The government has already taken some liberal measures by allowing foreign direct investment in this area which has been a key driving force behind the growth of Indian pharma.

5.   Underdeveloped medical devices sector

The medical devices sector is the smallest piece of India’s healthcare scenario. However, it is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the country like the health insurance marketplace. Till date, the industry has faced a number of regulatory challenges which has prevented its growth and development. Recently, the government has been positive on clearing regulatory hurdles related to the import-export of medical devices, and has set a few standards around clinical trials. Nowadays it is seen as the most promising area for future development by foreign and regional investors; they are highly profitable and always in demand in other countries.

Thus implementation of the improvement measures should be taken by each individual for the proper functioning of the country.