Friday, November 15, 2019

Public health policy is not about money spent but the outcome

‘Average time a doctor spends with patient in India is one minute as against six minutes in Germany’

Hyderabad: India may have made strides in control of communicable diseases, population control, polio and others but its public healthcare, especially primary healthcare, is in bad shape. Public policy on health is not just about amount of money allocated or spent but how it is being implemented and the outcomes, said Jeffrey Hammer, visiting professor in economic development at Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University. US.

“National Rural Healthcare Mission was touted to be big success on huge sums spent and number of people employed but our research has shown people could not differentiate much between a public health doctor or a village healer or a quack,” he said, at the first public lecture series on ‘Governance in Action’ hosted by Foundation for Democratic Reforms and Administrative Staff College of India on Thursday.

Prof. Hammer’s current research is on quality of medical care in India, determinants of health status and improving service delivery through better accountability. Studies had shown the average time spent by a doctor with a patient is about one minute whereas it was about six minutes in Germany! “We can’t have government interfering into every field but at the same time we cannot think markets are the most efficient,” he observed.

The country had been chasing investments as it would generate jobs but “who would want to come to a place where there is no sewerage system, sanitation is not a priority, pest control is absent, mosquitoes cause havoc and air is polluted — all these have to be provided for by the government,” said Prof. Hammer.

“Health and hygiene issues in India like infant and maternity mortality have been achieved by rich nations at much better rates 100 years ago much before the advancements of medicare like surgical procedures,” he claimed.

Medical insurance could play a role but need regulatory systems yet it was a complicated situation as it was not possible to “second guess happenings in doctor’s room”. Strengthening public healthcare could provide an answer as it could compete with private sector and perhaps drive the costs down due to competition, he felt.

Later, Prof. Lant Prichett, Blavantik School of Government, University of Oxford, spoke on education. These two talks are part of M. Bhoji Reddy & EV Ram Reddi endowment lectures, said FDR general secretary Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan. ASCI chairman K. Padmanabhaiah, also spoke.

Courtesy: The Hindu

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