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India has one of the highest out-of-pocket healthcare expenditures: Mohini Singh

Feb 15, 2018

Due to excessive out-of-pocket spending on healthcare, a massive 63 million people in India face poverty every year, says Mohini Daljeet Singh, CEO of Max India Foundation.

New Delhi: Significant emphasis needs to be laid on equitable health facilities and services across rural and urban India, by investing more into the sector, says Mohini Daljeet Singh, CEO, Max India Foundation in an interview to OneWorld South Asia. Excerpts from the interview:

OneWorld South Asia: What kind of health challenges need to be addressed to achieve universal health coverage in India?

Mohini Daljeet Singh: The main challenges are of accessibility, affordability and quality of healthcare. The number of qualified health professionals also needs to be increased to improve access as well as quality. As per WHO, One doctor per thousand people is recommended whereas in India, it is 0.62 doctors per thousand people which points to the shortage of qualified manpower.

India has one of the highest OOP (out-of-pocket) healthcare expenditures in the world as India ranks 182 out of 192 countries. Significant emphasis needs to be laid on equitable health facilities and services across rural and urban region, by investing more into the sector and increasing coverage of the poorest sections of our society.

According to the health ministry, due to excessive out-of-pocket spending on healthcare, a massive 63 million people face poverty every year. Therefore, health insurance needs to be encouraged to improve coverage.

OWSA: How can we increase access to affordable essential medicines and diagnostics?

Mohini: With regard to affordable medicines, the recent steps by government are noteworthy. The emphasis is laid on generic medicines with doctors only prescribing the salt of the medicine. The move has helped to cap the medicine costs.

Further, the traditional or alternative forms of healthcare need to be promoted to reduce dependency on allopathic medicines.

With regard to diagnostics, we can explore tele-medicine. It is useful to reach rural, hard to access areas such as tribal areas, etc.

Tele-medicine could be used to provide solutions to health problem in real-time remotely without the doctor actually being there. This can take care of majority of generic health problem if not severe. Therefore, technology holds answer to many of health concerns given the challenges that come with huge population.

OWSA: How can public private partnerships help in controlling the spread of non communicable diseases?

Mohini: Non-communicable diseases are emerging as a major threat to the health and well-being of the individuals in this century. The government has highlighted this concern in the National Health Policy-2017 since the treatment is expensive and often long drawn.

The government needs to take the lead since the magnitude of the problem is severe. Public-private partnerships can focus on leveraging the strengths of private players with regard to technology as well as knowledge sharing around the areas of strength of the private players.

OWSA: What kind of effort is the government making towards controlling premature deaths due to Non- Communicable Diseases (NCDs) including cardiovascular diseases, cancer & diabetes?

Mohini: Indian government has initiated various measures towards ensuring equitable access and affordable healthcare to citizens. At Max India Foundation, we have been addressing the issue in a multi-pronged manner.

On the one hand, we emphasise on health awareness on gamut of health issues including non-communicable diseases. At the second level, we try to organize health camps as well as screening camps to identify patients at an early stage.

Lastly, the Foundation also conducts surgeries and treatments for non-communicable disease patients who cannot afford cost of surgery.

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