A reductionist approach – On health sector

News: For a long, Government has focused on a reductionist approach of private-level interventions, ignoring social determinants of health.

How did this problem arise?

In the previous decade, Government’s focus remained on maternal and child health and infectious diseases. After this, focus moved to non-communicable diseases (NCD) and chronic illness. This led to individualistic and technocratic policy measures which focus on enhanced NCD screening, management infrastructure, wellness and lifestyle interventions, patient referrals, etc.

Read here: Burden of disease shifts to non-communicable ailments

But the need of the hour is to understand deeply inter-related issues of social, economic, and political dimensions. This can be seen from the 2007 example of the Netherlands Ministry of health initiatives. This was aimed at exploring inter-relationships between health and other sectors like social, economic, and political. But then organized medicine reduced it to personalized preventive medical care.

This has also been witnessed in India with NCD being subsumed into private sector run tests, medicines, and lifestyle change gimmicks.

Why is it a flawed perception?

The complex nature of the problem has led to the problems being passed to easily actionable but short-lived technocratic solutions. This has led to the perception that social level interventions are reserved for rich and developed countries.

But developing countries like India will benefit a lot from every penny that is invested in social level determinants.

What should India do?

For India, NCD will be a big challenge. Given the estimated losses of trillions of dollars, there is a need for a population-based and social approach. This will require a coordinated approach by various ministries and departments.

Digital and e-Governance initiatives need to be pushed. Government should come up with actionable points and work on social health determinants. All these will yield good results for the health sector in India.

Source: This post is based on the article “A reductionist approach – On health sector” published in The Hindu on 24th February 2022.

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