Primary Health Care in India: Coverage and Quality Issues

Bajpai, Nirupam; Goyal, Sangeeta

India’s achievements in the field of health have been less than satisfactory and the burden of disease among the Indian population remains high. Infant and child mortality and morbidity and maternal mortality and morbidity affect millions of children and women. Infectious diseases such as malaria and especially TB are reemerging as epidemics, and there is the growing specter of HIV/AIDS. Many of these illnesses and deaths can be prevented and/or treated cost-effectively with primary health care services provided by the public health system. An extensive primary health care infrastructure provided by the government exists in India. Yet, it is inadequate in terms of coverage of the population, especially in rural areas, and grossly underutilized because of the dismal quality of health care provided. In most public health centers which provide primary health care services, drugs and equipments are missing or in short supply, there is shortage of staff and the system is characterized by endemic absenteeism on the part of medical personnel due to lack of oversight and control. As a result most people in India, even the poor, choose expensive health care services provided by the largely unregulated private sector. Not only do the poor face the double burden of poverty and ill-health, the financial burden of ill health can push even the non-poor into poverty. On the other hand, population health is instrumental for both poverty reduction and for economic growth, two important developmental goals. India spends less than 1% of its GDP on public health, which is grossly inadequate. Public investment in health, and in particular in primary health care, needs to be much higher to achieve health targets, to reduce poverty and to raise the rate of economic growth. Moreover, the health system needs to be reformed to ensure efficient and effective delivery of good quality health services.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Earth Institute
Center on Globalization and Sustainable Development
CGSD Working Paper, 15
Published Here
September 8, 2015