It has been understood by health workers for a long long time that prevention is better than cure and that any health initiative that seeks to prevent disease has a far greater impact than an initiative to cure a disease.
Public health measures that seek to provide good sanitation, safe drinking water, and universal Vaccination, etc are much more beneficial in raising a community’s health standards than setting up tertiary care facilities at the cost of ignoring basic health issues.
In this respect let me highlight some direct impacts of the Union Budget 2021 regards our health.
I will not deal with financial outlays or percentage changes from previous allocations but deal purely with the impact of these initiatives on our health.
Clean Drinking Water
1. Clean drinking water
Long ques in front of water tankers are a common sight throughout the country. The ambitious target of providing drinking water through taps to every household by 2024 is laudable and much desired. India still carries a large burden of communicable diseases through contaminated water – commonly – cholera, diarrhea, dysentery, hepatitis A, typhoid – to name a few.
2. Vaccine development
One of the best public health measures that can be taken to prevent communicable diseases is a safe and effective Vaccine. This has been proven time and again.
Our lead in Vaccinating our people with Indian manufactured vaccines has been a great shot in the arm for us.
We must not only continue to lead the world in Vaccine manufacturing and delivery but must also innovate and research and produce new Vaccines for which there is a great global demand, including for diseases like Malaria, Hepatitis C, and HIV (AIDS).
To reduce the global disease burden of communicable diseases and to save lives we need effective, cheap, and safe vaccines.
The thrust on Pneumococcal Vaccine is important in order to prevent deaths in children less than 5 years old who develop pneumonia. The risk of death from this disease is much higher in children from low-income countries like India than in affluent countries.
India continues to be a global laggard in nutritional status – fourteen percent of India’s population is undernourished.
From tackling anemia in expectant mothers to ensuring proper nourishment for our growing children (nearly thirty-five percent of whom are stunted on account of poor nutrition) the budgetary importance towards Nutrition should help us to close this dreadful gap.
Clean Air Initiative
4. Clean Air Initiative
Clean air is now increasingly being considered a fundamental right. The double whammy of the Covid pandemic and bad air pushed up our infection rate since it is presumed the virus particle continues to get trapped in polluted air for longer periods.
The focus on clean air is welcome and the government must strive hard towards reducing PM levels all across the country, and especially in metro cities (which remain the most polluted in the world in repeated surveys).
Swachh Bharat Abhiyan
5. Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan
The renewed focus on the Sanitation and cleanliness program will help in preventing the spread of disease and lead to a cleaner healthier India.
Ramping up Health Infrastructure
6. Ramping up Health Infrastructure
Ever since the pandemic struck the country every Newspaper whether Indian or International starts off with the lament of ‘India’s woeful health infrastructure’ and the fact that precious little has been done to shore up healthcare delivery at every level. What little exists is understaffed and ill-equipped and marred by chronic absenteeism. Citizens at the peripheral level, especially at the level of villages and small towns have no credible healthcare structure.
This is seen to be improving with the new budget.
The opening up of Emergency Health Centres will hopefully give people timely and expert assistance closer to home.
7. Health R&D
Increased spending in Health R&D will go a long way in establishing India as a Medical and Pharmaceutical powerhouse and give us a global competitive edge in combating illnesses using cutting edge technology and evidence-based research.
Opening up the Insurance sector to global players will help us in getting focused health care for our needs.