6 February 2016
Shawn Clackett

Priorities for India’s Health Policy

Brookings
By Shamika Ravi and Rahul Ahluwalia

India’s health care sector is poised at a crossroads, and the direction taken now will be critical in determining its trajectory for years to come. In a recent Brookings India paper on the Indian government’s health care policy, we argue that it should prioritize expanding and effectively delivering those aspects of health that fall under the definition of “public goods’” for example, vaccination, health education, sanitation, public health, primary care and screening, family planning through empowering women, and reproductive and child health. These are all aspects of health with significant externalities and thus cannot be efficiently provided by markets.

Large gains in the nation’s health, and particularly the health of the poorest and most marginalized, can be made with this limited focus. As just one estimate, a 2010 World Bank study showed that India lost 53.8 billion USD annually in premature mortality, lost productivity, health care provision and other losses due to inadequate sanitation. Importantly, these gains can come very cost effectively, as demonstrated by India’s neighbors Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, which spend less as a percentage of GDP on health than India, but have better outcomes. It is not an expansion in spending that is critical for improving health outcomes. Instead, India needs to set appropriate goals and reform the public health care sector’s governance and management systems so that it is able to deliver on those goals. Evidence gathered globally and within India suggests that without good governance, additional spending would be worth little.

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Pacific Friends of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is a high-level advocacy organisation which seeks to mobilise regional awareness of the serious threat posed by HIV & AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria to societies and economies in the Pacific. In pursuing its goals Pacific Friends has a specific interest in highlighting the need to protect the rights of women and children in the Pacific.

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