By Dr Preeti Goyal
The COVID-19 pandemic has served as a wake-up call on the susceptibility of those with chronic illnesses. This has emphasised how crucial it is to start with illness prevention. In terms of the amount spent on the treatment of chronic diseases and the financial burden on the family and the country, even detecting them at an earlier stage makes a big impact.
Preventive healthcare can play a pivotal role in alleviating the budgetary constraints in healthcare. Preventive healthcare is an approach that aims to prevent or delay the onset of diseases and illnesses by taking proactive steps towards healthy living. This is accomplished through various interventions, including promoting lifestyle changes, regular check-ups, and vaccinations, among others. The inverse relationship between preventive healthcare and a country’s budgetary limits is an important aspect to consider when evaluating the benefits of investing in preventive healthcare.
India ranks among the nations with the lowest public healthcare spending in the world despite having such a large population. Approximately 2.1 per cent of GDP is being spent, as per the latest economic survey, on healthcare by the federal, state, and local governments combined which is only a decimal point short of the recommended 2.5% to 3%. Yet in India, the healthcare system has traditionally been focused on curative care, which aims to treat diseases and illnesses after they have occurred.
This approach has stretched the healthcare budget of the country thin, as the costs associated with treating chronic diseases are considerably high especially with the increase in lifespan of an average human being. In recent years, however, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of preventive healthcare as a means of reducing the burden on the healthcare system and improving overall health outcomes.
Investing in preventive healthcare can have a significant impact on the health budget of India. By preventing the onset of diseases and illnesses, the need for expensive treatments and hospitalization can be reduced. For example, India has already seen the benefits of investing in vaccination programs which helped prevent the furthering of the Covid pandemic.
In addition, lifestyle interventions such as the promotion of healthy eating habits and regular physical activity can help prevent the onset of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. These interventions are relatively low-cost compared to the costs of treating these diseases in the long run. Since awareness is power, based on knowledge of potential risks associated with a possible disease, a person may alter his/her lifestyle. These lifestyle modifications can be used to avoid chronic illnesses, lessen their symptoms, or even reverse them. Lifestyle interventions can help the general populace of the nation benefit from a longer lifespan and higher quality of life.
Investing in preventive healthcare can also have wider economic benefits. By improving the overall health of the population, productivity can be increased, as individuals are less likely to take time off work due to illness. This can result in increased economic growth and a more prosperous society.
One of the challenges of investing in preventive healthcare is the need for a long-term perspective. Many preventive interventions, such as promoting healthy lifestyles, may not yield immediate results and may take years to show their impact. This can make it difficult for policymakers to justify the investment in the short term. However, the benefits of investing in preventive healthcare are monumental and can change the face of how a majority of India’s huge population perceives and accesses healthcare. By reducing the burden on the healthcare system and improving overall health outcomes, the long-term
benefits of preventive healthcare far outweigh the short-term costs. In addition, there are a number of strategies that can be employed to make the investment in preventive healthcare more cost-effective.
For example, one approach is to target high-risk groups for interventions. This can help ensure that resources are focused on those individuals who are most likely to benefit from the intervention. Another approach is to integrate preventive healthcare into existing healthcare systems. By incorporating preventive interventions into routine healthcare, the cost of delivering these interventions can be reduced significantly. Investing in preventive healthcare can also have significant social benefits. By improving the overall health of the population, the quality of life can be improved. This can lead to a more equitable society, as individuals are more able to participate in economic and social activities.
Investing in preventive healthcare in India has the potential to significantly reduce the burden on the country’s health budget. By shifting the focus from curative to preventive care, the government can reduce the incidence and prevalence of diseases and health conditions, which in turn reduces the demand for costly medical or surgical interventions. While there may be short-term costs associated with investing in preventive healthcare, the long-term benefits far outweigh these costs. As such, policymakers should prioritize the investment in preventive healthcare as a means of improving overall health outcomes and
reducing the burden on the healthcare system.
(The author is a Vice President, Medical Services, vHealth. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the FinancialExpress.com.)