India has miles to go to achieve universal health coverage: WHO

14 Dec 2016


India will have to strengthen its act if it is to attain Universal Health Coverage (UHC) by 2030, going by the indicators released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on its centralised portal to track progress towards UHC.

India is among the 194 countries that are aiming to attain UHC by 2030 under the commitment to attain Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For this, WHO has designed a Universal Health Coverage Profile for member countries entailing assessment under four parameters.

The first parameter is reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health. India records about three crore pregnancies every year. Only 45.5 per cent of all pregnant women get full ante-natal care with around four visits by the nurse. Even less, 19.7 per cent have access to doctors' services, according to data from the Union health ministry. India loses over 44,000 women to pregnancy-related complications every year, which means one woman dies every 12 minutes for want of care.

One child under the age of five years dies every two minutes in India due to pneumonia or diarrhoea, the biggest killers of children in the country. Only 67.3 per cent of the population seeks care for child pneumonia.

The second parameter is the country performance on tackling infectious diseases. Only 39.5 per cent of the population has access to improved sanitation.

There is no data on insecticide-treated nets to prevent vector-borne diseases in India. Only 41.4 per cent population seeks tuberculosis detection and treatment facilities while 44 per cent population is covered under HIV detection and treatment facilities.

The third factor is the burden of non-communicable diseases. About 30 per cent Indians have high blood pressure.

The fourth component of the assessment includes basic hospital access, density of health workers, access to essential medicines, and compliance with international health regulations. India has only six hospital beds per lakh and close to two surgeons per lakh of population.

Surgeons are posted at the district level where population crosses over a lakh, while physicians are required to be posted at Primary Health Centres (PHC) in villages.

WHO data shows that India has 0.70 physicians per 1,000 population and 0.30 psychiatrists per 1,000 population.

''Any country seeking to achieve UHC must be able to measure it,'' said Dr Margaret Chan, director-general, WHO.

''Data on its own won't prevent disease or save lives, but it shows where governments need to act to strengthen their health systems and protect people from the potentially devastating effects of health care costs,'' Chan added.


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