‘India spends a little over 1% of its GDP on health care,’ says Dr Amartya Sen at Healthcare Summit

Nobel laureate and economist Dr Amartya Sen addresses a huge gathering on ‘Health for All: Why and How?’ at Tata Memorial Centre’s Healthcare Summit

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Dr Amartya Sen (second from left) at the Tata World Healthcare Summit, held on Saturday

Second day of Tata World Healthcare Summit saw a huge turnout of audience who had gathered to listen to Nobel laureate and economist Dr Amartya Sen’s address on ‘Health for All: Why and How?’.

In his speech, Dr Sen pointed out that there is less contribution of gross domestic product (GDP) in healthcare sector. He also spoke about the uneven distribution of economic wealth among the poor sections of society.

“Economic growth is meaningless without redistribution of its benefits to the underprivileged. In India, there is massive inequality in terms of distribution of economic wealth,” Dr Sen said.

Adding to this, he said, “As compared to other neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal, India lags behind in terms of social indicators, which define how well people are living in a country.”

He also spoke about India’s less spending attitude towards health care. He raised the importance of spending more for well-being of economically-weaker section of the society who cannot afford expensive treatment.

“India spends a little over 1% of its GDP on health care and there is wastage even while spending,” Dr Sen said. He compared India’s health-care indicators with Sri Lanka and said, “While six decades ago, India was second only to Sri Lanka, now it is second last, ahead only of Pakistan.”

Dr Sen concluded his speech with six points which he said India should implement to bring inclusiveness in public health sector.

Health care should include these social determinants:

  • Nutrition
  • Sanitation and social equality
  • Stop exploitation of poor patients by private doctors
  • Larger share of GDP must be spent on health care
  • Better work ethics in public health care
  • Excess expenditure in private sector needs to be reformed and more recognition be given to the central role that public health care plays

Dr Yusuf Matcheswalla, Professor of Psychiatry at JJ Hospital who attended Dr Amartya Sen’s speech, said, “It was an eye-opener speech for us. He highlighted the present condition of our country and how India’s health-care sector can be developed.”

In three days of Tata World Healthcare Summit, various health experts from different countries have gathered to discuss an affordable health-care model for larger section of poor people in the society. This summit will conclude on Sunday.