At first sight, the answer to “What is a disease?” is straightforward. But when we look at medical dictionary, we find that it is very difficult to define. A disease is a particular abnormal condition that affects part or all of an organism not caused by external force and that consists of a disorder of a structure or function, usually serving as an evolutionary disadvantage. The study of diseases is called pathology, which includes the study of cause of the disease.
In the next few decades, people worldwide can expect to live much longer. And if you make it to 65, data implies that you can potentially live another 20 years. That’s good actually but those living another two decades after that age will likely live with at least one chronic condition. The top seven chronic conditions older adults encounter are (i) Heart disease, (ii) Stroke, (iii) Cancer, (iv) Diabetes, (v) Arthritis, (vi) Obesity and (vii) COPD. The costs of the diseases are extremely high and they put a burden on our health care system.
Even if we are not old, over recent decades, multiple epidemic events have underscored how highly vulnerable we are to vital threats. Every living thing, both plants and animals, can succumb to disease. People for example are often infected by bacteria, but bacteria in turn can be infected by viruses. Hundred of diseases exist. Each has its own particular set of symptoms and signs, clues that enable a physician to diagnose the problem.
The practice of public health has been dynamic in India and has witnessed many hurdles in its attempt to affect the lives of the people of this country. Since Independence, major public health problems like malaria, tuberculosis, leprosy, high maternal and child mortality and lately, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) have been addressed through a concerted action of the government. Social development coupled with scientific advances and healthcare has led to a decrease in the mortality rates and birth rates.
The new agenda for public health in India includes the epidemiological transition i.e. rising burden of chronic non-communicable diseases, demographic transition and environmental changes. India needs to go a long way in providing an easily accessible, efficient and cheap healthcare to every citizen.
Despite the overburdened healthcare services, India is still one of the top three destinations for medical tourism in Asia, according to a study in 2014. The reasons behind it can be the availability of highly skilled doctors, quality healthcare infrastructure and the low cost of treatment. The government is keen to provide healthcare assistance to every citizen and reduce healthcare expenses with the help of state governments. It also aimed to focus on many healthcare issues in India including the incidence of water-borne diseases in the country, poor hygiene and drinking water. The Government of India took many steps to provide a better healthcare system in India.
Open air defecation and lack of proper sanitation and hygiene bring many serious health diseases like diarrhoea, intestinal infections, cholera, typhoid hepatitis etc. Many water-borne diseases spread around due to the transmission of fecal pathogens via water. It also leads to malnutrition and poor growth in children. The government launched a national campaign in 2014 to make India open defecation free by 2019. The government provided financial assistance to build toilets in households and made more than 80 lakh public toilets till now.
Recently the government launched New National Health Policy (NHP) 2017 after 15 years of the last health policy approval. The plan aims to strengthen India’s healthcare system. The policy proposes to increase the public health expenditure by 2.5% of the GDP from the current 2% GDP spending on healthcare. The policy aims to reduce the maternal mortality rate, infant and child death rate; elimination of leprosy by 2018, Kala-azar and lymphatic filariasis by 2017; to reduce the prevalence of blindness to 0.25/1000 persons by 2025; reduction in premature mortality from cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes or chronic respiratory diseases by 25% by 2025; reduction in the current use of tobacco by 30 % by 2025, safe water and sanitation for all by 2020. The NHP wants to achieve the “highest possible level of health and well-being for all at all ages” by various cost effective preventive and promotive measures.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has launched ‘Mission Indradhanush’, depicting seven colours of the rainbow, to fully immunize more than 89 lakh children who are either unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, those that have not been covered during the rounds of routine immunisation for various reasons. They will be fully immunised against seven life-threatening but vaccine preventable diseases which include Diptheria, Whooping cough, Tetanus, Polio, Tuberculosis, Measles and Hepatitis-B. In addition, vaccination against Japanese Encephalitis and Haemophilus Influenza Type B will be provided in selected districts/states of the country. Pregnant women will also be immunised against tetanus.
Other initiatives of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare include (i) Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyan, (ii) MAA-Mother’s Absolute Affection for promotion of breast feeding, (iii) introduction of new vaccines like Rota virus vaccine, Adult Japanese Encephalitis vaccination, (iv) family planning, (v) Pradhan Mantri National Dialysis Programme, (vi) ANMOL: ANM online application, (vii) E-Raktkosh initiative, (viii) India Fights Dengue, (ix) Kilkari Scheme etc.
For a country like India which has 17.9% of world population, healthy population is very important in order to get benefit from its large size of population. We all know the popular saying “Health is wealth”. By health we do not mean the absence of physical troubles only, but, it is a state of complete physical, mental and social well being. India has already taken many measures to improve healthcare in India and it will continue to take further initiatives in future too.