Amid the Hullaballoo of the Emerging Good Days Health of the Indian Population Shows Signs of Concern

Author: Pramila Tripathi

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The saying that ‘Heath is Wealth’ is age-old and as we all know, old is gold. No matter what heights the human race reaches with its scientific expeditions, maintaining proper health should always remain the major concern for everyone. The most important point that has to be kept in mind here is that by the word ‘a healthy being’ refers to the wellness of both mental and physical health. We often neglect our mental health and think that being physically well makes us an utterly healthy being. However, it is high time that we give both our psychological and physical health equal attention.

Worth of the Indian Health Industry:
India, with a considerable number of 135.37 crores of the population is the second most populated country in the world. However, all the achievements that have come in this country’s way, unfortunately, do not include a radical and much-needed improvement in the health sector. As according to a report published by The Firstpost, the Indian Health Industry is worth almost $81.3 billion. This health industry is the result of the simultaneous rise of diseases and health consciousness among the growing Indian population. The net worth of this industry is expected to rise almost by 17 percent by the year 2020.
However, despite this vast net worth of the health care industry of this country, the health of the population does not look very promising. India is the country that has the lowest public spend and government spending as a proportion of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) as well as the lowest per capita health spending. Countries like China, UK or the US are far in a far advanced position than India in this respect. Indians are compelled to make almost 62 percent of their health care expenditure from their own pockets where the citizens of US, UK, and China have to spend 13.4 percent, 10 percent, and 54 percent respectively.

Lack of Proper Sanitation:
Another major problem that constitutes ill health of the Indian population, especially among women and girls is the lack of enough number of toilets. According to a report by The Times of India, our country has topped the list based on the number of people who do not have access to a proper and healthy toilet. A shocking 56 percent of the Indian population does not have access to well-built toilets, while the percentage of China and Bangladesh stands at 25 and 53 respectively. The lack of proper sanitary systems not only contributes to an overall unhealthy population of the country but also makes the females susceptible to sexual harassment and illiteracy. Even though the government has been trying to improve the sanitary condition of the country by introducing various programs like the Swachh Bharat campaign, India continues to rank low in the sanitary index. However, on the brighter side, as according to a data published by the government the October 2014 launched Swachh Bharat mission has helped the sanitation coverage of the country to increase to 65% from a mere 39% by 2017 November. In these four years of the campaign, almost 52 million toilets were built in rural India. The WaterAid report, titled Out of Order: The State of the World’s Toilets 2017 mentioned that the cleanliness drive by the government has successfully lessened the percentage of people defecating in the open by almost 40 percent, which meant that a considerable number of more than 100 million people of rural India started using toilets after the campaign. However, the WaterAid report also mentioned that in India a shocking 60,700 children are killed by diarrhoeal diseases. This number not only gives a grim picture of the health of Indian children but also shows that despite the positive results brought out by Swachh Bharat India is still running quite low regarding offering cleanliness and robust hygiene to its citizens.

Besides ill health lack of proper sanitation makes a significant impact on the female population of the country. Given the fact that lack of hygiene is a problem that mainly hovers on the rural areas of India, women, and girls belonging to these areas can be said to be living the nightmare every day. Lack of toilet facilities is the reason behind the high rate of dropouts and nonenrolment in rural India. On June 19, 2017, IndiaSpend reported that 23 percent of the country girls had stated menstruation to be their primary reason for dropping out of school. Raman V.R, Head of Policy at WaterAid India opined that “Sanitation policies should cover the needs of those who are vulnerable. Adolescent girls and women want facilities in which they can manage their periods safely and hygienically. Pregnant women need easily accessible and usable toilets, and the elderly or people with disability require toilets with design features that help overcome the physical constraints they typically face.”

The Problem of Obesity and Malnutrition:
Another alarming situation that India is facing is that the country tops the list of underweight population and features in the top five countries attacked by obesity as well. According to a new study by The Lancet Journal India and China, both have secured places in the lists of countries containing the highest number of underweight newborns and overweight adults. The study shows that India houses almost 40 percent of the entire world’s thin population with 101 million skinny women and 102 million underweight men. Though China holds the second position, its percentages are not as scary as India. It has 8 percent of underweight men and 12 percent of the skinny female. However, despite housing 40 percent of the world’s underweight population India has incredibly surged concerning housing obese people as well. In 1975, only 1.3 percent of the global obese population inhibited India, in 2014 the percentage made a crazy rise to 3.7 with almost 9.8 million Indian men being obese. As with the women population, India now holds the third rank with 5.3 percent of the global obese female population inhibiting India.
Now, these problems of a significant percentage of the population being underweight as well as obese constitutes in giving rise to the rate of various heart diseases and cardiac failure. It is a well known fact that weight-related issues play a significant role in the well being or illness of the heart as well as work as substantial causes of diabetes and other fatal diseases. Thus obesity, as well as malnutrition, works as lessening the entire health condition of India. These weight-related issues are not rural India problems. The urban population is a massive constituent in these percentages, and it is mainly the urban population who fall victim to obesity because of the lifestyle and food habits.

The rise in Life Expectancy:
Another report presented by the Firstpost reveals that though India is observing an increase in life expectancy, the quality of the healthcare services provided by the country continues to remain inadequate. From 1990 to 2013 the average age of death of the Indian population rose from 58 years to 66 years. Ties Boerma, Director of the Department of Health Statistics and Information at the WHO, stated that “India must have had a lot of progress because it is such a driver of global progress (in pushing up life expectancy) because it is so big (in size).”

Current Conditions:
However, India’s inability to provide quality health care to its citizens has been made more apparent by the list prepared by Global Burden of Disease Study in which India ranks 145 among 195 countries regarding accessibility and quality of healthcare provided to the citizens. Despite this disheartening rank, the study also revealed that India’s healthcare accessibility had grown upwards since the 1990s. India’s healthcare quality and access scored 41.2 in 2016, which is quite an achievement in comparison to the 24.7 of the year 1990. The study stated that “Although India’s improvements on the (healthcare access and quality) HAQ index hastened from 2000 to 2016, the gap between the country’s highest and lowest scores has widened (23•4-point difference in 1990, and 30•8-point difference in 2016).” The highest scoring states of 2016 were Goa and Kerala (each had secured 60 points) whereas the lowest scoring states of that year were Assam and Uttar Pradesh (each scoring below 40). Regarding health care quality and accessibility, India is ahead of Nepal, Afghanistan, and Pakistan but lags behind China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Bhutan. The study also revealed the diseases that India had been handling poorly, and they are tuberculosis, Ischemic heart diseases, rheumatic heart diseases, testicular cancer, stroke, and chronic kidney disease to name a few.

This study along with several other studies conducted on the condition of the health of Indian people reveals that India needs immediate attention towards its healthcare accessibility and quality. Rural areas demand more care and attention as there exists a large discrepancy between the health of the urban population and the rural ones. The facilities that both of these populations can avail also vary widely, resulting in the overall deterioration of the health of the country.

Role of the Government:
However, on the brighter side, the government is trying to make the situation better by using different means. The National Health Policy has been brought out in the year 2017 with the aim of raising the level of public expenditure in the health sector from the present 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent over a given time of three years. The primary goal of the policy is to provide free treatment, medicines, and necessary drugs to all the existing public hospitals so that the underprivileged people can avail proper check-ups and diagnosis free of cost. To make this project successful a big help from the budget can establish additional hospitals and medical facilities.

Another problem that has to be taken care of to enhance the health condition of the Indian population is the shortage of doctors and nurses. There is not enough number of trained medical staffs who can help to make the situation better. As according to a study between the years 2017 and 2022 the required number of health care professionals is going to rise from 4.7 million to 7.3 million. It is necessary to increase the number of seats in the existing medical colleges as well as build new colleges to fulfill the required quota of doctors and nurses. Identification of land for developing new medical colleges should be started immediately as the situation needs immediate attention. The government might have to tie up with various private sectors as well to complete the undertaken projects in time.

Role of the Individuals:
Lastly, it is evident that taking care of one’s health is a necessary duty of an individual as well. The individual citizens of the country must make sure that they are taking proper care of their healthy by maintaining a healthy lifestyle and having adequate food. It is not possible for the government alone to change the health scenario of this country radically. To reform it for better we all need to unite and start taking care of ourselves. The change is bound to come.

Works Cited:
India’s healthcare sector: A look at the challenges and opportunities faced by $81.3 billion industry. 12 Jan. 2018, https://www.firstpost.com/india/indias-healthcare-sector-a-look-at-the-challenges-and-opportunities-faced-by-81-3-billion-industry-3544745.html

At 732 Million, India Tops List on Number of People Without Access to Toilets: Report. 16 Nov. 2017, https://thewire.in/health/732-million-india-tops-list-number-people-without-access-toilets-report

No. 1 in underweight population, India among top 5 in obesity. 2 Apr. 2016, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/No-1-in-underweight-population-India-among-top-5-in-obesity/articleshow/51656193.cms

Life expectancy in India on the rise, but quality health care services inadequate. 20 May. 2016, https://www.firstpost.com/india/life-expectancy-in-india-on-the-rise-but-quality-health-care-services-inadequate-2790442.html

India 145th among 195 countries in healthcare access, quality: Lancet. 23 May. 2018, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/india-145th-among-195-countries-in-healthcare-access-quality-lancet/articleshow/64283179.cms

Healthcare costs land five crore Indians in poverty. 15 Dec. 2017, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/healthcare-costs-land-5cr-indians-in-poverty/articleshow/62076906.cms

Ensuring healthcare for all citizens. 27 Jan. 2018, http://www.thehindu.com/business/budget/ensuring-healthcare-for-all-citizens/article22536933.ece

Prince, Martin J., et al. “The burden of disease in older people and implications for health policy and practice.” The Lancet385.9967 (2015): 549-562.

Nandi, Arindam, et al. “Reduced burden of childhood diarrheal diseases through increased access to water and sanitation in India: A modelling analysis.” Social Science & Medicine 180 (2017): 181-192.

Hirve, Siddhivinayak, et al. “Psychosocial stress associated with sanitation practices: experiences of women in a rural community in India.” Journal of Water Sanitation and Hygiene for Development 5.1 (2015): 115-126.

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