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Country Faces Formidable Challenges in Health Sector: Vice President

Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu said the country faced formidable challenges in the health sector despite advances in treatment methods and referred to the glaring disparity in provision of health services between urban and rural areas. Naidu urged the private sector to expand to rural areas to bridge the divide with the urban parts, vis-a-vis the availability of quality healthcare. India has made significant progress since Independence in the health indicators with successive governments according high priority to health and the well-being of the people, he said at the inauguration of the Apollo Proton Cancer Center. “Although the health outcomes have improved with the availability of modern methods of treatment and better healthcare facilities, the country is still facing many formidable challenges on this front,” he said. These included inadequate public spend, low doctor-patient ratio, high share of out-of-pocket expenditure, inadequate infrastructure in rural areas, lack of penetration of health insurance and inadequate preventive mechanisms, he said.

“While we have successfully eliminated some infectious diseases and improved the reach of healthcare delivery, there still is a glaring disparity in the provision of the services between urban and rural areas,” he said. While the private sector was complementing the government’s efforts in providing healthcare facilities, its focus was mostly confined to urban areas. “This has to change and the urban-rural divide in this crucial sector has to be eliminated. The private sector needs to expand facilities to the rural areas, where the majority of India’s population lives,” he said. He said the Public-Private-Partnership could be the model to bridge the gap by providing technically advanced primary and secondary healthcare centers. Naidu also called for making advanced treatment accessible and affordable to all sections of society.

He referred to the Center’s Ayushman Bharat scheme and said the flagship initiative aimed at providing comprehensive insurance coverage to 10 crore poor and vulnerable families. It also seeks to establish 150,000 health and wellness centers throughout India, he added. Expressing concern over cancer consuming more victims in India than in the past, he said while 3.82 lakh persons had died of it in 1990, the number jumped to 8.13 lakh in 2016. “While major hospitals like Apollo have set up advanced cancer treatment centers, there is a need for greater focus on early diagnosis by taking up massive screening programs. It is said that many cancers can be cured if detected early,” he said. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami said the state was forging ahead in delivery of quality healthcare. The government hospitals were being strengthened to provide cancer treatment, he said and pointed out at the infrastructure available for this purpose. – Business Standard