Ramesh ShankarWednesday, July 11, 2018, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

The Union Health Ministry has recently released the National Health Profile-2018 prepared by the Central Bureau of Health Intelligence. The document covers major health sector-related indicators, namely demographic, socio-economic, health status and health finance indicators, along with comprehensive information on health infrastructure and human resources in health. It is the most comprehensive annual compilation of data on disease incidence, health infrastructure and health finance in the country. The document gathers its data from the Directorate of Health and Family Welfare of all the states and union territories, central government organisations, national health programmes and other concerned national, international agencies. The report finds rabies to be the most fatal communicable disease, with the highest number of deaths reported from West Bengal (26) and Karnataka (15). Swine flu (H1N1) virus also saw an increase in casualty, from 1786 in 2016 to 2266 in 2017. Dengue cases also saw a rise, up from 1,29,166 in 2016 to 1,57,996 in 2017. Though the National Health Profile paints an overall grim picture, there is noteworthy progress in health indicators such as the infant mortality rate and maternal mortality rate. The country has recorded a marked decrease in infant and maternal mortality rates. From 74 deaths per 1000 live births in 1994 to 34 in 2016, infant mortality rate stands at its lowest right now. However, the gap between rural (38) and urban (23) mortality rate is still high. Even maternal mortality rate saw a decrease by 11 points in the past years. The national MMR stands at a rate of 167 per 1,000,000 births. The state of Assam (300) has the highest MMR, while Kerala the lowest (61).

But, not everything is hunky dory in the National Health Profile. It has some alarming findings about the prevailing health scenario in the country. The most glaring among them is the finding that India has only one allopathic government doctor for every 11,082 residents, 11 times more than the WHO recommended doctor-population ratio of 1:1000. The situation is worst in Bihar where one doctor serves a population of 28,391 people. Uttar Pradesh is ranked second with 19,962 patients per doctor, which is followed by Jharkhand (18,518), Madhya Pradesh (16,996), Chhattisgarh (15,916) and Karnataka (13,556). Delhi is better in terms of doctor-population ratio amongst other states, where the ratio stands at 1:2203, which is still twice the recommended ratio by WHO. The report states the country spent only 1.02 per cent of its GDP on healthcare in the financial year 2015-16. It spends only Rs 3 per day for the healthcare of an average Indian. This dismal figure puts India below other low-income nations like Maldives (9.4), Bhutan (2.5), Sri Lanka (1.6) and Nepal (1.1). Globally, Sweden spends the largest chunk on public healthcare by dedicating 9.2 per cent of its GDP. The report reflects the consistent indifferent approach of the government in terms of public health spending. Even in the Budget this year, the government has allocated only 1.3 per cent of the GDP for public healthcare, which is much lower than the global average of 6 per cent. This, even as the country continues to deal with a severe scarcity of doctors in basic healthcare facilities, rendering helpless citizens without any options but to pay more in the rural and urban private hospitals. It is time the government gives some serious thinking to raise the allocation for public health to reverse the alarming trend in the doctor-population ratio.