For better health care services
To mark World Health Day on April 7 not as an annual ritual, we should do some soul searching with serious introspection that is seriousness about health in a holistic sense.
Health is a state of complete physical, mental, spiritual and social well-being and not merely an absence of disease and infirmity.
Literature shows that the various studies which have been conducted in relation to health and economic growth indicate a long-run relationship between health and economic growth in any world economy like India and Korea.
In order to attain better health services in both quantitative and qualitative terms and to follow the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations on health care, there is an urgent need to increase public expenditure on health infrastructure sufficiently.
However, it is also necessary that spending on health infrastructure should be properly utilized such that it benefits the entire population, especially the underprivileged. It hardly needs any justification that nutrition, health, sanitation and safe drinking water are essential for human resource development in India and elsewhere in the world including Korea.
Availability of health infrastructure is a necessary condition for healthy human resources. Therefore, public expenditure on health infrastructure is obvious for every country like India.
Health infrastructure is universally recognized as an important part of social infrastructure. It is a valuable investment which helps in building and maintaining a productive labor force as well as in improving the lives of the people and quality of the society.
There is strong evidence from both developed and developing countries that public expenditure on health infrastructure leads to sustained economic growth.
There is an urgent need to reform the public sector health care system in developing countries like India. Programs initiated by the government must be regularly monitored for efficiency and quality. There is a need to plug financial leakage and waste through good governance and effective implementation.
To ensure the quality of health services, there is an urgent need to enhance the medical institutions including hospitals, dispensaries, health centers and medical staff, especially medical officers (doctors) and nurses etc. in order to maintain the WHO-prescribed standards about health infrastructure.
There is a strong case for improving the doctor/population ratio, doctor/patient ratio, doctor/nurse ratio and doctor/bed ratio in India and elsewhere.
We should continuously search some ways to make health systems less expensive and accessible to the majority of the population, especially to the poor. There is also a need to remove rural-urban gaps that exist in most health care facilities.
Another major policy recommendation for highly populous economies like India is that the number of family welfare clinics should be increased and declared as a basic infrastructure.
These institutions play an important role in family planning programs and give instructions to the public about the need of family planning which are helpful in reducing the birthrates and put a check on population growth.
The government expenditure on health infrastructure should not be treated under the social services sector as in India and calls for separate heads to be treated as investment.
We should devote a sufficient amount of expenditure on health infrastructure in such a manner that the objectives of health infrastructure such as equitable access to health care, qualitative health care and efficient use of resources mean the optimum allocation of resources.
An optimum combination of the above factors would generate positive externalities with multiplier and spillover effects.
is first Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) chair professor of Indian economy at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Seoul. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.