The much awaited new government in place, obviously there are heightened expectations from it related to the KRAs (Key Result Areas) of Development. Health is an important part of these.
In a large country like India, Health is a complex matter to deal with. Apart from many national issues like diseases causing from the increased pollution, contaminated water, general situation of hygiene etc., there are pressing health problems peculiar to each state/region. For example, in coastal areas/Forest zones: Asthma, snake bites, bee stings, skin ailments resulting from pollutants oozing into the nearby sea and so on. The list is long. In Industrial zones and cities: New traces of TB, malaria, liver ailments, cancer etc. In modern IT zones in most states: Stress among youth and early cardiac problems, impotency, spinal aches etc. So more than a national health policy, India needs a policy more to be area specific.
In India, there are typical women’s health issues too. While travelling for India Health Line (free consulting service by specialist Doctors), I asked many as to how many accompanied their wives for full medical checkup once a year. 98 per cent did not even realise that women need an early regular medical checkup as compared to men! New Health Policy has no option but to deal with women’s health as she is the pillar of families in India—mother, sister, wife, daughter. Women ignore their own health while taking care of their families and therefore Government needs to play a big role in caring for them.
This leads to yet another serious area especially in India: Undetected diseases that can be life threatening. Diabetes, hyper tension, obesity, anemia, cancer are some of them. Any of these if goes undetected it can lead to heart failure, brain hemorrhage, kidney failures and so on. We need to have systems in place to encourage people to go for regular checkups without having to queue up or misled. Timely detection of diseases saves nation’s precious human hours, money and most importantly many lives.
Affordable treatment is another nagging point in India’s medical arena. While there may be primary health centres, Government hospitals etc, a large section of the society that is middle class cannot really avail all these. For the poor and the middle class, there needs to be budget hospitals where they are treated with sincerity, integrity and care. Trained staff, specialist doctors and many simple facilities are needed for this and if planned with care in heart and by involving experienced doctors/NGOs, it can be effectively done. There are a lot of brilliant MBBS doctors who cannot do post graduation due to limited seats, but they can be given a comprehensive short Diploma in super specialty such as Cardiology, Cancer, and Gynecology etc. The beginning has already been done in this but it should be a part of KRAs of the Government. Small well equipped affordable hospitals in villages and towns will reduce the load on urban/semi urban hospitals and patients/relatives will not have to travel long. They can be around their homes.
As a Cancer Surgeon I have come across the incidents where cost of medicines deters continued treatments in diseases like TB, Kidney failures, Cancer, Asthma and even Osteoporosis! Relapse of diseases costs lives. Basic and specialty medicines have to be available at an affordable price. It can be successfully done with involvement of pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, chemists and doctors.
Health is a vast topic and cannot be elaborated in one article. We at India Health Line and many others too have been trying hands on experiencing many issues and sorting them out too. Yet, we hear that in Konkan train accident, a bright young IT engineer lost his limbs only because of shortage of specialist doctors and loss of blood; it pains all of us. Blaming doctors or governments is not the solution; working in tandem with all health experts, social workers and corporate well wishers can get the new government a comprehensive result oriented policy. We all are there to help the government if it decides to be people friendly and build India into a healthy nation and happy nation. India does not need flashy announcements of hefty health insurances like in the US. India needs sincere care with expertise. We have it within us. Government needs to recognise it and achieve success in an important parameter of development: HEALTH.
(The writer is renowned cancer specialist and can be contacted at https://facebook.com/pages/India-HealthLine/649977036286)