Deep-rooted Disease

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Published: December 12, 2015 2:41:31 AM

The country lags its BRICS peers in quality of healthcare, a new study finds

Add this to the list of dubious distinctions India holds when it comes to healthcare. A review of healthcare systems in the BRICS grouping, published in the medical research journal, The Lancet , has revealed that India is the worst performer in this grouping. The report card is especially damning of India’s inability to provide adequate protection to citizens against the financial risks associated with health issues. Such lack of cover is pushing millions into poverty because of the out-of-pocket expenditure incurred for treatment and the loss of employment caused.

Shrinking government expenditure on health—from 4.5% of the GDP in FY05, it was down to 4% in FY14—is one of the factors causing the malaise , as per the report, while there has hardly been an improvement in terms of lowering of India’s disease burden. Between 2005 and 2013, the country’s share in the global disease burden had fallen from 21% to 20%. Worse, preventable infections such as diarrhoea remain a leading cause of death among children under 5, which means not much success has been achieved in awareness on the ground. Equity in healthcare is also fractured along the rural-urban and ethnic group lines—infant mortality in rural areas is 17 points higher than in urban areas and the under-5 mortality rate among tribal children is 15% higher than the national average. As per the report, treating India’s ailing healthcare system needs to begin with better primary care, and that can come about from better public funding of the sector with private healthcare stepping in to fill any gaps remaining. Crucially, there needs to better stewardship of public healthcare, with better coordination between the States and the Centre.

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