Date of Release: July 8th, 2014
Published in: Times of India
With the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) just a year away, improving health indicators is an important part of the new government’s agenda. With the BJP manifesto promising that “high priority will be given to address the shortfall of healthcare professionals (in India)”, we try and examine the impact of inadequate human resources on health outcomes in India. The analysis reveals a direct correlation between health outcomes and human resources in public health institutions.
The four southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu alone account for 42% of all medical colleges in India; thereby producing most of India’s doctors. Not surprisingly, these states also have the best Doctor Population Ratio (DPR). Also, these states shows no shortfall of doctors at Primary Health Care (PHC) level, they have already met the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) target of 27. This clearly reflects in the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) of these states as well.
In comparison, north Indian states of Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and Chhattisgarh have very few medical colleges, a fact which reflects in their DPR. What does this mean for health outcomes in these States? Unsurprisingly, most states with poor DPR also had a relatively high shortfall of doctors at the PHC level. This translated into poor health outcomes in these states. As an example, in Madhya Pradesh as on 2011, PHCs were short on doctors by 35% of the required number, which contributed to M.P having the worst IMR of 59 among all 28 states. Similarly, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha with PHC shortfalls of 27% and 14.3% had poor IMR of 57 and 57. When these numbers are viewed against the MDG target of 27 for IMR in India by 2015, it becomes clear that these states need to act urgently to improve their performance in public health. It is evident from the analysis that adequate human resources are the first step towards better health outcomes.
Hence, it is important to go beyond merely having doctors and invest in improving the quality of healthcare professionals in India. National Healthcare Policy, another promise by the new government, should hopefully lead to greater public investment in healthcare, and improve the quantity and quality of healthcare in India while reducing regional disparities.