More than 92 percent of Indians do not trust the healthcare system according to an annual survey conducted by fitness device firm GOQii.
Alongside this mass distrust the survey also found that the most trusted public figure on health advice is Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar. A close runner-up for sources of health advice is yoga guru Baba Ramdev.
A breakdown of the results shows 74 percent of those surveyed said that they do not trust hospitals. This was followed by pharmaceutical and health insurance firms at 62.8 percent and medical clinics at 52.6 percent. Slightly more trusted were doctors at 50.6 percent and diagnostic labs at 46.1 percent.
The results should be taken with a pinch of salt as they may not be representative of the population as a whole. While the survey states a sample size of around two lakh (200,000) individuals, these people are limited to those who have purchased GOQii products. GOQii is a California-based fitness tech company founded by Indian entrepreneur Vishal Gondal. The company’s signature product is an armband which monitors physical activity and health and provides personalised coaching to help achieve fitness targets.
The sample size being limited to fitness product consumers, alongside claims that the most trusted health sources are Bollywood actors and yoga gurus rather than any medically qualified individual, suggests a level of bias. It may be the case that the selected group for the survey already hold a predisposition towards homoeopathy and traditional medicine as opposed to allopathic medicine.
Regardless of any bias within the survey, the claims made by many individuals ring true for India’s health system. Highly publicised controversies such as the numerous child deaths that occurred at a hospital in Gorakhpur last year due to alleged medical negligence have eroded the public’s perception of the healthcare system. Medical negligence was cited as one of the most common reasons for a lack of trust in the healthcare system.
A consistent claim amongst the survey participants was that a major public health risk was air quality. In Indian cities this is becoming a major health concern, recognised by both medical bodies and the government as a key issue in public health. It also has a detrimental effect on the health of India’s rural population, which accounts for 75 percent of the country’s air pollution-related deaths.
Delhi is a prime example of air quality reaching severe levels. ‘Delhi has become a gas chamber’ said Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, as smog in the national capital hit critical levels in November 2017. As the smog was considered a risk to health, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) declared a state of public health emergency. Many schools were closed for prolonged periods.
Low air quality along with a variety of poor lifestyle choices can lead to heightened risks of many non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease or cancer. The survey notes diabetes increased in prevalence from 7.7 to 7.9 percent in 2017 compared to 2016. More Indians were found to have high cholesterol in 2017, increasing from 9.4 to 10.1 percent.
Lack of trust in the healthcare system could lead to fewer people seeking assistance when in need. This could lead to higher rates of disease. With a rising tide of NCDs, the dual burden of infectious and non-infectious disease threatens to overwhelm the Indian healthcare system. Mass distrust from the public is unlikely to aid this situation.