We are in the midst of a huge pandemic that has taken away the normalcy from us in terms of our regular routine and life activities being completely stalled. We are confined to the precincts of our homes and having adjusted ourselves to a new life circumstance which is starkly opposite to what we have been doing all these days. There is a constrained silence within us and around us which practically is the new life status that we share with those who are lucky enough to be safely away from the web of the dreaded virus.
In the midst of the silence a few of us are startled with the siren sound of the ambulance that is passing by our neighbourhood, or woken up by the domestic breed checkers (DBC’s) who come house to house to equire about our health status. Periodically, we can hear the public address system far away blaring with details of the procedures to be adopted as safety health practice in this pandemic environment.
Did we ever ponder for a while from where all these are originating out? and who is responsible for all these activities in times of turmoil and trauma for the people? No guesses, all these are part of a gallant effort by a coordinated team that belongs to the “Public Health Care System” in our country which is in the frontline as we fight the dreaded pandemic. It sounds good, but what do we know about it? and how are we connected with it? are questions that must occupy the minds of people at the present moment.
Perception and Reality:
As always perception keeps varying from person to person, but in many cases a concept of mob psychology applies and translates into a group perception of a majority. It is in this background we are faced with a realistic perception of the concept of public health among our people.
If one can traverse through the mindset of people in terms of health care, everyone would be by far comfortable to go into a private health care system, than that of the government setup. This is in a way because of the fact that the general perception of the government health care set up is for the other person and not me. In a similar manner, Public Health is always construed to be a government system that is for the public and not me. This can easily be taken as the general perception of the common citizen in our country irrespective of where they belong and what work they do.
One of the possible reasons for this perception could be that Public Health mostly works from behind the scene, in terms of being a silent workhorse that caters to the preventive and promotive aspects of health care in the country. It is easily identified as the government’s business and it is something related to community or village work, which sadly is not the case.
While we know that Public health is the initiative and efforts taken by the Government with regard to disease prevention and control in the country. It plays a very vital and pivotal role in the general health status of the citizens, since it works on a wide spectrum of services that are undertaken in a large scale covering a huge number of people.
The Central Government through the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare provides the scope for Public Health to function within the country’s health care mechanism. It is with the support of the Government through provision of resources and financial outlay various activities are carried out across the country through the structure of public health.
Despite this, the public health care system of our country has always been at the receiving end when compared to that of the private sector health care institutions. It is always been a matter of debate and discussions in our country at every level. But, as always in times of national calamity or a nationwide health issue that is casting its dangerous impact on the common people, it has been the public health system and structure that comes to the rescue on a larger canvas covering the length and breadth of the vast geographical areas of our Nation.
The structure and framework of the public health in India has been a vital vanguard for the people to protect themselves against the very many dreaded diseases that have surfaced from time to time. We need to acknowledge that through the efforts of the public health system we have been able to successfully combat major health problems like malaria, tuberculosis, small pox, polio, etc in the past, since independence of our country. We have also fought the spread of HIV AIDS, avian flu, HINI influenza in the recent past which affected multitudes of people. Now, as we all know that it is the public health care system that is in the forefront to fight the pandemic Corona Virus which is dangerously impacting the lives and livelihood of the people in our country.
Apart from taking on emergent health care issues on a far footing, the public health system must be credited for increasing the human life expectancy among the population in India with considerable improvements in the health care facilities for the masses. The social problem of relatively high maternal and child mortality is also been effectively tacked by the vast network of the public health system in our country.
The process of surveillance within the framework of the public health system is playing an important role in assessing the level incidence of new diseases among the people and for also analyzing the impact that it creates among the social fabric of the nation. This is a very critical step for framing up intervention strategies that needs to be drawn up from time to time and address the emergent realities in the wake of endemic and pandemic diseases. Based on the pointers that the public health surveillance throws up when in need, the government is able to bring in regulations that are necessary to be adopted towards the mitigation or eradication of various major health issues. This is a very proactive role that often goes unnoticed from the eyes of the common people, but from the point of view of the health care administrators and civic administration this is a strong foundation on which they operate.
Significance to Social Development:
The health status of the citizens to a great status reflects on the economic and social progress of the nation. It will be hard to imagine that one could contribute to the GDP through their respective work area, if they are to be stricken by threatening health issue, since their productive capabilities will be drastically hampered, impaired and impacted. Mass health care hazards if unchecked will result in chocked economy for certain. It goes without the saying that significance of public health must also be viewed from the point of the economic progress of the country.
This apart, the public health system to a great extent works towards reducing the health inequality between the have’s and have not’s. The economics of health care comes to the light when it is addressed to mass population in a country like ours in India. Various researches points out the fact that common people are gravely impacted by spending their resources and wealth for their health care needs. With health care for curative services being offered in the private sector for a considerable cost, it is not that all the citizens can afford it. Only those who can afford to pay can get care and treatment from that of the private and corporate sector. This leaves a huge gap in the society between the have’s and have not’s which throws up a big social problem. It is here that the role of the public health system and structure comes to the rescue for all to have accessible health care at their own environment.
The psyche of the people undergoes a great stress and strain when any major health issue that affects them in terms of a mass impacted syndrome. Many would be requiring immediate medical facilities that are institutionalized through the hospitals and many more would require life modifications at their community level. Public health is significantly known to play a very proactive assistance in developing coping strategies on a prevention approach through IEC campaigns. The Information, Education and Communication through vernacular languages reach out to millions of people so as to bring about a behavioural change among the people to overcome their problems.
Promoting Public Health:
Public Health at the perception level of the common people in country would have been something that was concerned with somebody’s health and not something that of their own. Thanks to the Corona Virus, now people are starting to wake up to notice the importance and vital role of the public health care system in that of the status of the health of the people of our nation. It has taken a pandemic to possibly turn the perception of the public health upside down. Hope it stays that way and keeps on growing in strength among the mindset of the common people in our country.
Any program or initiative which is focussed for the masses, will achieve the targeted outcomes, only if they are consumed by a majority of the people for whom it was intended and implemented. In this manner, the people of our country will have to give due respect to the concept and practice of public health by proactively participating with greater sense of positivism.
Promotion of public health does not start and end with the government alone, there needs to be greater level of participation of the public who are common citizens in the initiatives, programs and campaigns of public health in our country. The participation of the people in the public health initiatives and promotion of the same within their families will indeed create a rippling effect which eventually can have a greater and significant reach with percolation deep down in the society.
Yes, we are asking that the allocation of financial outlay for health sector be increased considerably in the union budget. Infact, this is also vociferously being raised at various seminars and workshops that are conducted day in and day out. There is a clarion call to modernise the government setup and infrastructure in tune with modern standards. There are questions of concern of inadequate manpower in the public health sector in proportion to our population. Hundreds of messages, images and memes float through the social media with ideas to revamp health policies, changing the modalities of operation and sharpening the focus of public health care system etc.
With due respect to all concerned, in my humble opinion the points mentioned above are not entirely wrong. Each one in their own right has a credible valid reason to state, seek and to review the aspects of public health appropriate to their expertise and experience. There are challenges that are always part of any system that is taken up at the national level, particularly to the size and scale of our country like India.
All said and done the onus lies in the hands of people to make Public Health successful, meaningful and effective for the cause it works. We cannot remain mute spectators without taking part in the national mainstream and then critically evaluate the system of public health. It would be much more prudent, if we are to come together and lend our support to cause of public health in our country so that our people and our nation stays healthy and wealthy. We live in an age of rapid social connectivity, through technology interface success stories of the public participation in public health care system will indeed result in a cascading social action that would benefit our nation.
This is the time for the common public to give a big pat for the public health system in our country and also a great push to promote it in the society for the welfare of the people of India!