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WHO calls for higher levels of health spending

India does not spend enough on healthcare. This is according to reports by The World Bank, which found that India spends just 4.7% of its GDP (private and public spending combined) on healthcare in 2014 – versus a global average of 9.9%. This was also the case for neighbouring countries such as China (5.5%) and Pakistan (2.6%).

What currently sets India apart in terms of healthcare is its ambitious projects to manage medical spending and resources at a national level rather than on a state by state basis. This National Health Policy (NHP),  currently in its infant stages, is an ambitious attempt by the Modi administration to provide healthcare to a population in excess of 1 billion. This kind of endeavour is not without cost and will require a huge degree of extra financial backing as a result.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that India is one of 194 countries attempting to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC) by 2030. The WHO has assigned 4 criteria to assess this aim – and India is falling behind. Of the first category, maternal and child health, India shows a huge lack of antenatal care. Only 45.5% of women receive full time access to a nurse. This may account for the 44,000 pregnancy related deaths per year.

The second criteria regards infectious diseases – another area where India falls short. Mosquito-borne disease are running rampant across the vast majority of states. HIV is also a major issue in India, with many institutes losing funding and new laws being drafted which seemingly no longer guarantee the right to treatment. Thirdly the criteria demand more work to be done regarding non-communicable disease and, fourthly, access to healthcare. In regards to access to healthcare India shows huge divides. There are massive discrepancies between rich and poor and between urban and rural communities, with the two factors often coinciding.

The WHO has assessed that these aims may only be achieved with an appropriate increase in funding to healthcare. The WHO’s representative to India, Dr Henk Bekedam, states that:

“60 million people are in poverty through paying healthcare bills mainly because of the country’s low investment in health, inadequate financial protection and high out-of-pocket expenditure”. Lack of adequate aid to the poor in accessing healthcare as well as improving infrastructure to deal with infectious diseases more rapidly must be amongst the top priorities to comply with the WHO standards.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set out a health care plan that involves increased investment from both private sector companies within India, as well as attracting increased foreign investment. In order to meet the standards set out in the WHO’s 2030 timeframe, government funding and interventions will be required. The WHO however believes this standard may be paramount to sustained economic growth within India, as the health of a nation is often goes hand in hand with its prosperity.

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