Health Outcomes and Policy in India
After reviewing health outcomes and policy in India, this chapter concludes that there are at least six sets of issues to be addressed with regard to improving the quantity and quality of health services, and ipso facto improving health outcomes, in India. First, the amount of resources earmarked for health needs to increase. Second, health resources need to be used in a fair and just manner, and in particular, complaints relating to egregious health outcomes need to be addressed. Predominant in this set of issues is oversight and regulation of private sector health provision. The third set of issues relates to the allocation of health resources and, in particular, to the imbalance in the allocation of health resources between towns and villages. A fourth issue is the accessibility of rural areas since it is the most remote areas that have the lowest density of health workers. Another issue is the more efficient use of health workers in order to make them more productive. Finally, Indian health policy is stronger on rhetoric and aspiration than it is on action and implementation. The successful implementation of policy requires the explicit recognition that objectives are often competing (primary versus tertiary care) and the acknowledgement that, with budgetary constraints, one cannot have more of one without having less of the other. The first role of policy is to then choose the optimal mix of objectives with respect to these trade-offs. Second, policies come up against vested interests which agitate (often with the support of opposition politicians) and litigate against proposed changes. Lastly, policies in India are made against a background of poor governance with the predatory presence of corruption looming over every policy initiative. In implementing, rather than simply articulating, policy, it is important to address these governance issues.
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