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Rural Health
Deepak Kumar Mohanty | 17 Jan 2007

HEALTH IS WEALTH. Any country’s growth and prosperity depends a good on the health of its citizen. In quite a large country where 72% of the population are living in urban area, it’s a bit difficult but essential to ensure proper health care to all the strata of society irrespective of rural or urban areas.
 
Adequate medical facilities are not available for poor population. They are affected by different diseases and have least access to proper health care. Infant mortality and maternal mortality in most of the cities in India is very high and this shows the level of quality health care available to people. The high rate in both these cases are due to several reasons but can be reduced taking proper measures including generating medical literacy, improving infrastructure and basic health care.
 
Poor health care facilities in rural areas deeply rooted in current medical education and profession. Now the focus on medical education totally became urban centric with emphasis on specialization rather than public health as the primary service. Recently one newspaper coated that there are more than 7,00000 registered doctors in India but only 10% of those are available in public health care units and that’s even poor in rural areas. As far as private sector is concerned, there are large numbers of private hospitals mushrooming in all over the country but their high treatment fees again acts a barrier for rural poor people to avail. 
 
In the public health care center especially in the village area, there is shortage of specialist and overall infrastructure. If you go to a village in Orissa, Bihar or Bengal, it is hard to find a well-equipped public health care unit (forget about emergency service) whereas in city you can find 2/3 clinics or hospitals adjacent to each other with all kinds of specialists.
 
The reason for the shortage of specialists in public health care is understandable as the cost of medical education is very high and after struggling for 6 years, no professional wants to spend their life in under privileged areas where opportunities and facilities are less. So the doctors prefer to practice privately in urban areas that offer better market. Again, the wage difference between public and private sector along with unhealthy working conditions, lack of staff and adequate infrastructure including living quarters with less electricity do a little to attract good professionals to the public sector.
 
Recently, Govt. has set up a committee to monitor and take adequate measures for ensuring better medical care to the rural area. But we all know where the actual problem lies and i.e. in the in equitable distribution of resources as less than 1% of GDP are spent for health sector. Though the number of medical colleges is growing but has little impact on the basic medical care needs of the country.
 
Our administrative system in medical colleges also makes it difficult for generating good doctors as only a very few students are selected in the medical colleges among whom only some privileged ones got the opportunity for specialization. Those professionals later prefer to migrate to overseas for better money and opportunity.
 
Thus, Govt. should first take measures to stop migration of doctors and this is possible by developing infrastructure. As far as the problem in rural area is concerned, Govt. should provide medical training to more and more rural students thereby fulfilling the shortage of health workers (they can later opt higher medical education). In this aspect World Bank, NGOs, academic institutions, private sector along with community centers of rural areas can work together in developing programs for improving infrastructure including water supply, electricity, roads, which only can encourage professionals for practicing in rural areas. Apart from this Govt. should make it compulsory for all medical students to provide their services to the people of rural area for at least one year before opting any specialization in areas of their choice. Anyway, there is lot to do in this field for making a healthy nation with healthy people.