Though we have achieved food security and that by no means a mean achievement but we are still far away from becoming a healthy nation. We have malnutrition as a problem and also various diseases that spring up from time to time putting the burden on our health care system and also amounting to a loss of precious man-days of work.
Health is determined not only by medical care but also by determinants outside the medical sector. The public health approach is to deal with all these determinants of health which requires multi-sector collaboration and inter-disciplinary coordination. Although there have been major improvements in public health since the 1950s, India is passing through demographic transition which is adding to the burden of diseases.
There is a triple burden of diseases, viz. communicable, non-communicable, and emerging infectious diseases. This high burden of disease, disability, and death can only be addressed through an effective public health system. However, the growth of public health in India has been very slow due to low public expenditure on health, very few public health institutes in India, and inadequate national standards for public health education.
Recent years have seen efforts towards strengthening public health in India in the form of launch of National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), up-gradation of health care infrastructure, initiation of more public health courses in some medical colleges and public health institutions and strengthening of public health functional capacity of states and districts.
Unfortunately, despite the subsidies and support, the private sector, which accounts for 70% of the healthcare in India, has played only a peripheral role in this epidemic. Reports of denial of care and overcharging have emerged from private hospitals in different states. The private healthcare sector needs to move beyond profit maximization and towards accepting public health goals and social accountability.
We are time and again reminded that a robust public health system is a core social institution necessary for us to survive as a strong nation. At the end of the day, it is the public health system that will stand by our side in times of crisis. We must give the highest priority to strengthening it.
We need to act as a nation to improve our health care systems and also increase reliance on ancient Indian medicines which are not only very economical but also holistic in nature. That is they ensure that a person remains healthy all his life by making subtle changes in his lifestyle and eating habits. The government has started the Ayush Ministry which is entrusted to popularize various health regimes of ancient India like Yoga and Ayurveda. The ministry is doing its bit but a lot needs to be done before we can say that we have revived our traditional Indian medicine.