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The Face Of Indian Health Care: A World Health Day Evaluation

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These major public health threats are joined by diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and hypertension, posing a significant challenge to the Indian economy. Cancer, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes have been responsible for 653000, 2820000 and 102000 mortalities respectively were reported in the year 1998.

This being one end of the health care spectrum, millions of people living in the rural areas still do not have access to the most basic health care facilities. A lot of people live in poor, dispossessed conditions so bad that they are unable to afford the bus fares. It is not uncommon sight to see a villager or tribal walk miles to visit a nearby government district hospital, only to see witness the non-availability of the duty doctor.

Although some argue that poverty prevents the realization of health care objectives in this country, the irony is that a number of people in the rural areas are struggling to cope up with their huge medical debts. The excruciating pain associated with high medical costs is even felt in the so-called middle class.

It is alarming to know that with millions living below the poverty line, India spends much less on its health care industry than any other country in the world, even less than that spent by Sri Lanka. The Indian Government spends as little as 0.6 to 0.8 % of the total health care expense. Thanks to the 2006 budget, which has raised the health care spending from 0.9 to 2-3 % of the gross domestic product (GDP).

Several questions arise at this juncture as to whether it is the responsibility of the government to take care of health care, targeted at provision of quality health care at an affordable cost or it is the duty of NGOs to take over? If yes, what then is the role of the government hospitals and public health centres that are supposed to provide medical services to the poor and underprivileged?

Such a complex problem cannot be so
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