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Put public health on the political agenda

According to a recent paper in the Lancet, health services in India’s public sector, which can be accessed free or for a nominal fee, are grossly inadequate. Consequently, most Indians have to access private healthcare that is expensive, unaffordable; 39 per cent people in rural areas and 20 per cent in rural areas don’t go for any treatment because they are too poor to afford any. People of the same segment from advanced countries like the US are coming to India because the quality of medical treatment here is at par, at times even superior, and affordable. So much so that it recently provoked US President Barack Obama to advise his countrymen to stay away from India.

The irony couldn’t have been starker. As India’s health industry booms, its public health system is destined to doom. In the context of poverty, access to public health systems is critical in a country like India. However, since 1990s, the public health system has been collapsing and the private health sector has flourished at the cost of the public health sector. The health policy has shifted its focus from being a comprehensive universal healthcare system as defined by the Bhore Committee (1946) to a selective and targeted programme-based healthcare policy with the public domain being confined to family planning, immunisation, selected disease surveillance and education and research. The larger outpatient care is almost a private health sector monopoly and the hospital sector is increasingly being surrendered to the market. The decline of public investments and expenditures in the health sector since 1992 has weakened the sector, adversely affecting the poor and other vulnerable sections. The time has come to reclaim public health and make a paradigm shift from a policy-based entitlement for healthcare to a rights-based entitlement. For this healthcare has to become a political agenda.

Source: ExpressBuzz

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