India’s health inequality made worse by reduced health budget: Oxfam report

SourceThe Business Standard

What is the news?

Recently, Oxfam India released “Inequality Report 2021: India’s Unequal Healthcare Story”. Oxfam India’s inequality report draws attention to the county’s unequal healthcare story hit further by Covid-19.

The report shows that the constant underfunding of the public healthcare system in the last decade have worsened health infrastructure.

Key findings of the report

Inequality Report 2021 - India’s Unequal Healthcare Story

  • The report says that the absence of universal health coverage has starkly and disproportionately affected marginalised groups at a time when socio-economic inequalities in India are growing because of the Covid-19 pandemic. When it comes to healthcare,
    • People in the general category are better off than Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) households;
    • The rich do better than the poor; men are better off than women, and
    • The urban population fares better than the rural.
  • The disastrous second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic further exposed the weakness of India’s public healthcare system. Such as,
    • Currently, India ranks 155 out of 167 countries on bed availability and has five beds and 8.6 doctors per 10,000 of its population.
    • Rural India, which makes for 70 per cent of the population, has barely 40 per cent of the beds.
    • The number of hospital beds per thousand population in India (at 0.5) is lower than some of the lesser developed countries such as Bangladesh (0.87), Kenya (1.4), and Chile (2.1).
  • Persistent underfunding of (the) public health system, especially primary health care and inadequate health infrastructure in India remain to be addressed.
  • Over the years, a better health system has, for instance, helped increase life expectancy, but outcomes have varied across gender, caste and income levels. For instance,
    • The rich, on average, live seven-and-a-half years more than the poor
    • A woman from the general category lives, on an average, 15 years longer than a Dalit woman
  • Oxfam India findings show that higher public health allocations have a positive effect on health outcomes in a pandemic. For instance, States such as Odisha and Goa, with higher expenditure on health, also had higher recovery rate from Covid-19.

Expenditure on health

  • In Oxfam’s “Commitment to Reducing Inequality Report 2020”, India ranks 154th in health spending, fifth from the bottom.
    • In the 2021-22 Union Budget, a year following a pandemic, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) budget was allocated with a 9.8 percent decline from the Revised Estimates of 2020-21.
Recommendations of the report

The report recommends the implementation of universal health coverage (UHC) supported by a strong public health sector.

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