India: A Patient’s Bed Head Ticket!

Prof. K. K. Krishnan, BIMTECH

Sad to say that the one area where our record is so patchy, uneven and unsheathing is “Health of India”. To say that progress is at a snail’s pace will almost be an exaggeration – it is much lower than that.

Here is the macro picture. India faces a huge disease burden from communicable diseases such as diarrhoea and tuberculosis, besides she bears the brunt of non-communicable diseases like heart diseases and diabetes. Worse, this health crisis is increased by a widening disparity between India’s relatively more prosperous and poorer states, which can block its demographics dividend. 

Some increase in life expectancy.  It (life expectancy and at birth) has improved from 59.7 years in 1990 to 70 year in 2016 for women. For men, life expectancy increased from 58.3 years to 66.9 years. But here again. State level inequalities are stark, with a range of 66.8 years in Uttar Pradesh to 78.7 years in Kerala for women, and 63.6 years in Assam to 73.8 years in Kerala for men in 2016.

While mortality from communicable diseases has reduced come 53.6% to 27.5 %, Deaths from NCD like heart, Obesity extra problems rose from 37.9 % to 61.8 %.

Some of the more prosperous states life Goa, Tamil Nadu and Kerala contribute the largest share of NCDs. These include diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, mental health and neurological disorders, cancers, cardiovascular diseases, chronic kidney diseases and musculoskeletal disorders.

In contrast, malnutrition continues to be a curse in some the poorer states, also called the Empowered action group (EAG) like Chhattisgarh. Bihar, Madhya Pradesh. Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Odisha, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Assam. There is a higher incidence of malnutrition among women.

The contribution of non-communicable diseases to health loss, fuelled by unhealthy diets, high blood pressure, blood sugar and overweight, has doubled in India over the past two decades. Air pollution and tobacco smoking continue to be major contributors to health loss.

It’s better not to talk about our infant mortality, female mortality or stunting of children under age 5, where we are even behind some of our neighbouring countries life Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Unless state governments set aside a significant portion of their budgets (like Kerala, Tamil Nadu etc.) towards health education and social services for the next one decade, we will continue to languish as a “poor health nation”. Let us hope that our politicians will get enlightenment sooner than later!

Prof. K. K. Krishnan

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