India has not taken healthcare seriously, WHO

India has not taken healthcare seriously, WHO

New Delhi (ISJ) - World Health Organisation says, India has not taken healthcare seriously resulting in huge economic cost for treatment. �Dr. Henk Bekedam, WHO?s Representative to India lamented, if people are not healthy, they cannot contribute to the economic development of the country. �Addressing a technical briefing on Diabetes ahead of World Health Day in New Delhi, Dr. Bekedam said, 60 million people in India under poverty, cannot pay their healthcare bills.� He said investment in healthcare means, investing for a healthy population, who could contribute to the economic development.

India?s public spending in healthcare is one of the lowest at 3.9% of the GDP (2011), while the economic burden of non-communicable diseases, NCDs, alone was 3.3% of the GDP (2004) or Rs. 84,600 crores (Rs. 846 billion). If NCDs were completely eliminated, the estimated GDP in a year would have been 4-10% higher, according to World Bank data.

The Draft National Health Policy 2015 circulated by the federal Ministry of Health and Family Welfare says ?The failure to attain minimum levels of public health expenditure remains the single most important constraint? in achieving key goals.

Health Expenditure in different countries*

CountryTotal Health Exp per capita (USD) - 2011Total Health Exp as % of GDP - 2011Govt. Health Exp as % of Total Health Exp - 2011Life Expectancy at birth (years) 2012
Sri Lanka$ 933.3%42.1%75
BRIC Countries
Brazil$ 11198.9%45.7%74
China$ 2745.1%55.9%75
South Africa$6708.7%47.7%59
OECD Countries
USA$ 8,46717.7%47.8%79
United Kingdom$ 3,6599.4%82.8%81
Germany$ 4,99611.3%76.5%81
France$ 4,96811.6%76.8%82
Norway$ 9,9089.9%85.1%82
Sweden$ 5,4199.5%81.6%82
Denmark$ 6,52110.9%85.3%80
Japan$ 4,65610%82.1%84

*Source:� Draft National Health Policy 2015, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare

The data given in the above table shows that health outcomes and financial protection are closely related - the more the public expenditure in healthcare, the higher the life expectancy. Japan, with the highest public investment in terms of per capita, 4,656 US dollars, has the highest life expectancy of 84 years.

According to a report of WHO, around 30 per cent in rural India do not go for any treatment due to financial constraints. Another 39 million Indians are pushed to poverty due to ill-health every year.

The draft policy says, attainment of the highest possible level of good health and well-being, through a preventive and promotive health care orientation in all developmental policies, and universal access to good quality health care services without anyone having to face financial hardship as a consequence, is its goal.

Public expenditure in health care, prioritizing the needs of the most vulnerable, who suffer the largest burden of disease, would imply greater investment in access and financial protection measures for the poor. Reducing inequity would also mean affirmative action to reach the poorest and minimizing disparity on account of gender, poverty, caste, disability, other forms of social exclusion and geographical barriers.

Dr. Damodar Bachani, Deputy Commissioner, Non Communicable Diseases in the federal Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said, the government should consider subsidies for healthy foods and impose higher taxes for unhealthy food. �He said, this would considerably reduce life-style related diseases, which is a growing concern in India.

The Draft National Health Policy also suggests the government would explore the creation of a health cess on the lines of the education cess for raising the necessary resources. Other than general taxation, this cess could mobilise contributions from specific commodity taxes- such as the taxes on tobacco, and alcohol, from specific industries and innovative forms of resource mobilization.

Image Courtesy: WHO India

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