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IIT Madras research calls for greater government investment in healthcare

An Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras research has called for greater government investment in public healthcare to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the elderly. The current pandemic poses a greater risk of social isolation among the elderly, which may lead to greater adverse health impact.

Based on the 75th round of the National Sample Survey (NSS) 2017-18, the study, published in the international journal Globalization and Health, found that only 18.9 per cent of the elderly had health insurance and therefore they may not be able to bear large expenditures on health, and 27.5 per cent of people whose age is 80 years or above are immobile and 70 per cent of elders are partially or wholly financially dependent on others.

The study was undertaken by Professor VR Muraleedharan, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Madras, and Dr Alok Ranjan, the first Author who was a Post-Doctoral Student at IIT Madras till December 2020 and is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at IIT Jodhpur.

The NSS survey covered 113,823 households and 555,115 individuals from randomly selected 8077 villages and 6181 urban areas. The results showed that disparities exist in health status as well as healthcare access of elderly people across the country.

Elaborating on the important findings of the study, Professor Muraleedharan said, “Our research highlights ways in which the elderly may have suffered even due to COVID-19 control measures, such as social/physical distancing that could increase depression, and lead to a higher chance of inflammatory response in the elderly. There are several such ailments specific to the vulnerable elderly population. These are highlighted empirically, supported by other studies carried out in other country settings during the current pandemic.”

Speaking about the relevance of the study to tackling future pandemics Dr Ranjan said, “The future is uncertain and we may experience such pandemics and adversaries in coming years and therefore it is important that we take lessons from the current pandemic to ensure that such disasters in the future are less detrimental to the physical and mental health of the elderly.” NDTV