India is the poorest performer on health among the five BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), a new report card on the health scene in the country by Indian researchers has said. The researchers, including chairman of the expert group set up by the erstwhile Planning Commission in 2011, have claimed that it’s disturbing that country has failed to adequately protect its citizens against financial risks associated with health costs.
“These catastrophic expenditures on health continue to push millions into poverty,” leading academicians and researchers Dr Vikram Patel and Dr K Srinath Reddy have written in their review — ‘Assuring Health Coverage For All In India’. The review will be published online on Friday (December 11) in The Lancet.
Patel and Reddy told The Indian Express: “A large proportion of the population is impoverished because of high out-of-pocket healthcare expenditures and suffers the adverse consequences of poor quality of care.”
Total expenditure on health in India has gone down from 4.5 per cent of GDP in 2004 -05 to 4 per cent in 2013-14. Along with Patel and Reddy, other researchers from Public Health Foundation of India, World Heart Federation and AIIMS have called for radically new architecture for India’s healthcare system.
“Despite being home to 17·5 per cent of the global population, India accounted for 20 per cent of the global burden of disease in 2013 — only a slight improvement from 21 per cent in 2005. India accounts for 27 per cent of all the neonatal deaths and 21 per cent of all the child deaths (younger than 5 years) in the world. Diarrhoea, pneumonia, preterm birth complications, birth asphyxia, and neonatal sepsis account for 68 per cent of all deaths in children younger than 5 years in the country,” the researchers have pointed out.
Reddy has called for urgent course-correction in the health system. According to Reddy, the first priority should be primary care. The second challenge, according to him, is to overcome shortage of skilled workers. The other challenges include regulating private sector and improving public spending on health.