COVID-19 Throws-up New Opportunities For India’s Health Sector

Coronavirus pandemic has triggered a global economic recession and amidst the healthcare crisis, opportunities for larger spends on public health have opened for India as the country’s spending in this critical sector ranks among the lowest in the world.

World Health Organisation (WHO) in terms of GDP percentage spending on healthcare ranks India at 184th position out of 191 countries. It’s spending at 3.6% of GDP is much lower than that of other nations. In the 2020-21 budget allocation, Rs 69,000 crore for the health sector is only one per cent of GDP.

The sector needs to be given due importance, now more than ever before to manage the nation’s preparedness to recover from COVID-19. The ongoing pandemic has brought out the importance of a better healthcare system, modern versatile provisions and fast administrative mechanisms to manage disasters.

Coronavirus & the Economy

Frequent outbreaks of viral diseases. in recent years, like SARS in 2003, MERS in 2012, Nipah in 2018 and Coronavirus in 2019 that have caused many deaths, has heightened the concerns about public health.

It is time for India to make strong doses of investment in public health infrastructure especially in rural areas. Self-reliance for medical equipment’s and improved sanitation should be the next priority. Innovations leading to improved detection, prevention, diagnostics, and better treatment options have to be in place to tackle any healthcare crisis.

Whenever the health sector faces a challenge about public health, the burden always falls hard on doctors and other health professionals. India has an estimated shortage of 6 lakh doctors and 2 million nurses with only one government doctor for every 10,189 people.

To address the growing demands for accessible healthcare, the government needs to tie up with the private sector by giving incentives to train skilled healthcare workers. This will prove to be cost effective and develop more human resource.

A major challenge for healthcare in India is lack of funding for research and development. R&D can bring transformative changes in medical sector from cost saving, discovering new treatments to saving lives. More research is needed for developing vaccines, inventions to prevent and treat diseases.

The increasing population and the prevalence of diseases requires setting up of new medical schools, redesigning methods of education and training to reach international standards. India needs to make strides to balance demand and supply for medical education.

Alternative medical systems like AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Sidha and Homeopathy) are specifically aimed for rural population.They integrate traditional methods with western technology to improve forms of medicine within healthcare sector. It also safeguards the traditional knowledge of Indian systems of medicines like preservation and cultivation of medicinal plants.

Revolutionary, coordinated stimulus is required to back up the much-neglected health sector which is currently going through its toughest time. There is an urgent need to place health on the high priority sector list. It will be a pressing issue for the government and the public for years to come.

Holding a master’s degree in Economics from Punjab University, Aditi Sharma is pursuing a masters course in Journalism from Amity University, Noida. A Yoga practitioner with a flair for calligraphy and organic gardening, Aditi has been decorated with a silver medal for her volunteer work with Global Cancer Concern India.

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