Nov 1 2013 | Focus

Healthy growth

The population of India is growing at an alarming rate. With this the demand for infrastructure and healthcare services has also increased and become critical. Healthcare is one of India’s largest sectors in terms of revenue and is a provider of employment to many. The healthcare sector is trying to keep pace with economic growth and increase in demand for healthcare services. The challenge lies in making the health care services accessible, affordable and equitable, especially in hinterland. The Government of India aims to raise public spending on Health from 0.9% of GDP to 2-3% of GDP. In India, ‘Healthcare’ is a State subject, but the centre is equally pro-active in improving the overall healthcare infrastructure and is making an all out effort to forge in the support of all the stakeholders. In the last couple of years, the healthcare sector has grown rapidly at a CAGR of 15 percent per annum. Rising income levels mainly from the middle class and growing elderly populations are the factors that are driving this growth. In addition, changing demographics, disease profiles and the shift from chronic to lifestyle diseases has led to increased spending on healthcare delivery.


India already has a strong base in terms of quality health care professionals and para medical personnel. The potential is immense as far as harnessing these strengths are concerned. India can play a major role of health care service provider not only to it’s own population but to other countries. Healthcare sector can be at the forefront of driving India’s economy if the cost incurred in this sector is considered as an investment in human capital. The
Indian healthcare industry comprising hospitals, medical infrastructure, medical devices, clinical trials, outsourcing, telemedicine, health insurance and medical equipment was estimated at US$35 billion in 2007 is likely to touch US$ 160 bn mark by 2017.


The concept of preventive healthcare in India is still at early stages. It is much more preferable than curative health care. Most of the planned efforts were directed towards curative healthcare. The Indian pharmaceutical market is quite robust and supportive to tackle curative issues. But now the time has come when equal emphasis on preventive care needs to be given, particularly in the case of HIV/AIDS, non-communicable diseases, reproductive child health, polio and disabilities occurring due to deafness and lack of vision.


The private sector participation is critical to the growth of the healthcare sector owing to availability of capital and trained manpower. As per Government estimates, around 75 per cent of our health care requirement is taken care by the private sector. Private-public partnership in Healthcare is desirable and would bring convergence of private sector interests and public sector goals. The ultimate objective of such partnership is to make use private sector capital and expertise and reach out to vast population living in rural areas.


NRHM was launched on 12th April, 2005. The plan of action includes, increased public expenditure on Health, reducing regional imbalances in Health, pooling resources, optimisation of Health Manpower, community participation and ownership, operationalizing Community Health Centres into functional hospitals. It aims to undertake required correction in the current health care system, improve and strengthen public health management services and delivery mechanism.Massive investments to the tune of US$15 bn is made since the launch of its flagship programme. Under this mission, more than Rs. 96,000 crore have been provided to the 35 State Governments and UTs paving way for creating nearly 50,000 health infrastructure, which includes upgradation of existing healthcare facilities as well as constructing new ones. Nearly 70,000 beds have been increased in government health institutions for provision of essential and emergency services across the country. Addition of nearly 1.6 lakh human resources such as Specialists, Doctors, Nurses, ANMs and Para-medics has been made. Over 8 lakh 60 thousand
Community Health Workers called ASHAs have been appointed in villages to facilitate interface between the communities and health system.


The Government of India is trying it’s best to ensure adequate supply of human resources for the healthcare sector. Various initiatives such increasing the availability of MBBS Seats, establishment of new medical colleges, upgradation of the existing medical colleges, nod to more nursing schools. In order to boost the para-medical education and scale up the availability of paramedics, his Ministry has sanctioned a National Institute of Paramedical Sciences (NIPS) at Delhi and 8 Regional Institutes of Paramedical Sciences (RIPS).


India has a pluralistic health care delivery system which recognises and allows all kinds of medical systems. Multidimensional, broad-based policies and strategies needs to be adopted further to accommodate traditional medicine along with the modern medicinal practices. The importance of traditional medicinal systems such as Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, Sowa- Rigpa and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) cannot be undermined.


70% of India’s healthcare infrastructure is concentrated in the top 20 cities. Medicines account for 72% of private expenditure of health. India has taken a major decision on distribution of free generic drugs to patients seeking healthcare in public facilities. This will provide affordable access to medicine, particularly for the poor and disadvantaged. Implementing this initiative would require lots of Government spending and is likely to benefit sectoral growth. The Indian healthcare industry growth seems to be on the ascend with increase in Government and individual spending. As per PWC - NatHealth report titled ‘Enabling access to long-term finance for healthcare in India’, India need to add at least 650,000 beds by 2017 requiring a capital investment of Rs 162,500 crore. The sectoral growth is likely to touch a US$ 250 billion mark by 2020.

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