How public health boosts an economy -K Srinath Reddy
A stronger health system in a country can lead to better outcomes on the economic growth front
When public health sneezes, the economy catches cold. Dire predictions for the post-COVID-19 global economy have come from the International Monetary Fund, which called the present crisis the worst downturn since the Great Depression. Grim forebodings for the Indian economy have been sounded by many distinguished economists and the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India.
Will this lead to higher investment in health to protect the economy from the effects of endangered health? The 20-lakh-crore package recently announced includes proposals to prevent and respond to future pandemics. These include strengthening of health and wellness centres, establishment of infectious diseases hospital blocks in all districts, expansion of the laboratory network and ‘One Health’ research on zoonotic diseases under the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). This is a limited response to the threat of infectious outbreaks.
Need for equitable systems
The creation of a well-balanced health system is not the objective of this crisis response, despite the fact that the southern States have shown how efficient and equitable health systems are our best defence against public health emergencies. It is also clear that weak health systems, which do not function well in a steady state, cannot suddenly generate surge capacity when challenged by a public health emergency. Further, a selective investment in some components of infectious disease control will not meet the many other essential demands on the health system. Even during the COVID-19 response, attention has been diverted from maternal and child health, and care for other infectious diseases and non-communicable diseases. Also, where will the additional health workforce needed even for this limited expansion come from, without a planned investment in education, skilling and employment?
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The Hindu, 21 May, 2020, https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/how-public-health-boosts-an-economy/article31635362.ece?homepage=true