Renowned medical journal Lancet has flagged India's healthcare woes in a survey. The country's healthcare system will collapse if the government fails to invest in combating non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and heart problems, warned Editor-in chief Richard Horton.
Lancet publishes indices on mortality and communicable as well non-communicable diseases.
According to the latest survey, India is far from achieving its vision of universal health coverage. There is a lack of investment in public health and the private sector remains unregulated, Horton said in an interview to a leading newspaper.
India currently spends 1% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on public health. Every year, 6 lakh children under five die in the country. That's the highest in the world.
Horton warned the government about budget cuts in critical areas. The survey will point out the implications of those cuts.
But Narendra Modi's government has already mercilessly slashed budgets for several schemes. Take a look:
ICDS is like a lifeline in pre-natal healthcare and for adolescents across the country. Under the service, there are some 13 lakh Anganwadi centres providing food and primary healthcare facilities to more than 10 crore children and pregnant mothers.
Budget allocation for ICDS was cut by nearly 60% from Rs 18,691 crore to Rs 8,000 crore. This may reduce the number of Aangawadi workers, which in turn would lead to an increase in cases of malnutrition and anaemia among women.
Budget for the critical scheme, which provides cooked meals to nearly 10 crore children in more than 11 lakh schools, was slashed to Rs 9,236 crore from Rs 13,150 crore.
Apart from directly affecting nutrition levels of students, the budget cut may increase drop-out rates as many children attend schools for a healthy meal. Flag: India's malnutrition figures are among the world's highest in the world.
Astonishingly, the programme that helped India halve the number new HIV infections from 2.7 lakh in 2000 to 1.1 lakh in 2011, also bore the brunt - Budget was cut by about 40% to Rs 500 crore. The impact? It will reduce the growth of counseling and testing centres, lead to cut backs in communication programmes, care, support and treatment for HIV patients, and thus may even bring a rise on the number of cases.
Budget for the programme that helped India produce nearly 10% more wheat and 14% more pulses, was reduced by about a third to Rs 1,300 crore. Lower production of food grain, especially rice, and pulses may affect consumption of these key food items, which that are imperative for healthy living.
Undoubtedly the most crucial scheme to suffer budget cuts, this scheme provided safe drinking water to more than 80,000 chemically affected habitations in the last five years.
Budget for the scheme was slashed mercilessly by 80% to Rs 2,500 crore from Rs 11,000 crore. Rural habitations will be hit the most by this. Safe drinking water is crucial to avoid diseases like malaria and dengue.
After such reduction in the budgets of crucial schemes, would it be a surprise if the Lancet survey portrays a dismal picture of the country's healthcare system.
With contribution from Sourjya Bhowmick