Wednesday, August 12, 2009

India's public health spending is a joke

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee

As the nation battles the endemic of Swine Flu a study conducted by World Health Organisation has revealed that India at the bottom of the heap in terms of public health spending. It stands at a dismal 171st place out of the 175 countries listed. Surprisingly some of sub-Saharan African countries which have very little medical infrastructure spend more portion of their GDP to provide basic healthcare facilities to their citizen.

In a country where one third of the population lives below the poverty line India spends 5.2% of its GDP on healthcare. The contribution from the Government is mere 0.9% and the rest 4.3% comes from the private sector. Compared to this developed nations like the United States and Sweden spend 16% and 13% of their GDP on public healthcare respectively. Our biggest economic and military competitor China spends about 6% of its $3.251 trillion GDP on public healthcare where as our government is content with 0.9% of $2.996 trillion GDP.

These figures published by WHO may not surprise many because the kind of leaders who have helmed the Health Ministry. If we look at the tenure of our last Health Minister Dr Anbumani Ramadoss his rule can be divided into two eras the AIIMS battle era and the Smoking tokenism. For the first part of his tenure Dr. Ramadoss was more busy fighting an ego battle against AIIMS Director Dr. P Venugopal. Next half he took the moral responsibility of making India especially Bollywood a No Smoking zone.

Doing all this Dr. Ramadoss forgot about the 'less important things' like absence of basic healthcare in and well trained doctors and nurses rural areas. Banning smoking on screen and attempts to ban bars in metros seemed more important to him than 'small issues' like infant mortality rate, malnutrition, AIDS and other endemic diseases. The reason is simple working on an issue like infant mortality rate would have denied Ramadoss of any controversy and in turn the media coverage and publicity he got.

Coming back to the issue of public expenditure on healthcare, well our country lacks funds, but why not? Building statues for Rs 2000 Crores is necessary in Indian as it empowers the Dalits. Having an oversized cabinet in the centre as well as all the state governments doesn't burn a hole in Government's pocket. The Government happily seems to have money to bail out Air India whose losses have been scripted by a few inefficient bureaucrats and managers but no money to spend in the social sector.

Over the last few years the Government as well as the private sector have tried to promote India as a destination for 'Health Tourism'. Isn't the WHO report a slap on the country's face as we claim ourselves to an emerging 'superpower'? We want a seat in the United Nations Security Council but cannot secure our citizens from normal air borne and water borne diseases. A few good hospitals should not disguise us from the pathetic medical scenario that exists in our country.


Reuben Lamiaki August 13, 2009 at 12:36 AM  

ramadoss is a chor number 1... here is a fact.. the bastard shut down CRI kasauli the premier vaccine production facility and got a new one set up in his constituency... what a waste of resources.... and regarding the cigarette ban, the fucker asked ITC ltd. for a share in their sale in tamil nadu or else he would wring their arms... and regarding spending on health we suck,,, my state sucks,, and thats y im goin back home to work,...

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