De­velop with care

Eco­nomic growth is pos­si­ble only if people are healthy. Dis­ease preven­tion should, there­fore, be the mantra of de­vel­op­ment


MODI'S MANTRA of de­vel­op­ment was cru­cial in the vic­tory of Bharatiya Janata Party in the 2014 Lok Sabha elec­tions.But care­less de­vel­op­ment could cost people their health. This sig­nif­i­cantly ham­pers eco­nomic growth.

The lat­est World Health Sta­tis­tics re­leased by the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion show that for ev­ery 100,000 people, In­dia lost 13,613 years of life due to non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases and 14,186 years of life due to com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases in 2012. “Years of life lost” is a mea­sure of pre­ma­ture death.

Many times, dis­eases kill people in the prime of their work­ing lives. Eco­nomic im­pact of these deaths is high. A who es­ti­mate sug­gests that In­dia could lose be­tween $23 bil­lion and $53 bil­lion a year in na­tional in­come due to deaths from heart dis­eases, strokes and di­a­betes be­tween 2005 and 2015. There is no es­ti­mate for losses due to com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases.

De­spite the grow­ing bur­den of dis­eases, the United Pro­gres­sive Al­liance govern­ment al­lo­cated a mea­gre 1.3 per cent of the gdp for health­care in the 12th Plan. The new govern­ment will have to in­crease the budget.But it should not fo­cus only on cu­ra­tive care. Preven­tion of dis­eases will, how­ever, be a chal­lenge for the govern­ment. For ex­am­ple, to pre­vent ex­po­sure to chem­i­cals in food prod­ucts the govern­ment will have to check the use of colourants, ar­ti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers and trans fats. This will sig­nif­i­cantly af­fect the food in­dus­try, which uses the ad­di­tives to lure cus­tomers. Sim­i­larly, to pro­tect people from harm­ful im­pacts of par­tic­u­late mat­ter pol­lu­tion in the air, the govern­ment will have to limit pri­vate cars and pro­mote pub­lic trans­port that run on clean fuel.

Health­care has been one of the most ne­glected as­pects of gov­er­nance in In­dia since In­de­pen­dence. As bjp starts its in­nings at the Cen­tre, it must heed a few words of ad­vice.

1.In­vest in health. Es­ti­mates show to­tal health­care ex­pen­di­ture by the In­di­ans is 3.9 per cent of the gdp. Most of it is borne by the sick. This of­ten pushes people to poverty. To en­sure health­care for all, the govern­ment must spend at least 5 per cent of the gdp.

2.Preven­tion is cru­cial.So the govern­ment must en­sure ac­cess to safe wa­ter, air, food and ar­eas for phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity.

3. Give pri­or­ity to health im­pacts dur­ing the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact as­sess­ment of projects. Pol­lut­ing in­dus­tries should be al­lowed only if they adopt ad­e­quate en­vi­ron­ment pro­tec­tion mea­sures.

4.Im­prove pub­lic health­care ser­vices.If de­vel­op­ment can reach ru­ral ar­eas, so can health­care.

Dis­eases make people in­firm or kill them in the prime of their work­ing lives. This ham­pers eco­nomic growth

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