In Focus

Average Dalit woman dies 14.6 years earlier than a woman from higher caste

Dalit woman

The life expectancy of the tribals in India is also approximately three years lesser than the non-tribal population, according to an Oxfam India report released on the opening day of the World Economic Forum in Davos

India is among the countries with the least public health spending and even caste and life expectancy are intricately connected. The average Dalit woman dies 14.6 years earlier than a woman from a higher caste, says Oxfam India’s latest report ‘Survival of the Richest’ which was released on the opening day of the World Economic Forum in Davos early this week.

The report’s estimates from 2020-21 show that the India’s Government Health Expenditure (GHE) as a percentage of GDP stands at 2.1 percent, much below the policy benchmark of 2.5 percent and global average of 6 per cent.

“This low budget expenditure manifests itself not only in the low status of overall health in India but also in the inequalities in health across various economic and social groups,” the report says. 

This is borne out by the marked disparity in the life expectancy in the country which at birth is 65.1 years for the poorest fifth of households as compared to 72.7 years for the richest fifth, the report reveals.

“This constitutes an absolute gap of 7.6 years and a relative gap of 11.7 per cent,” the report adds. “The life expectancy of the tribals in India is also approximately three years lesser than the non-tribal population.”

India, according to the report, needs massive investments in infrastructure. “India has just 5 beds for 10,000 Indians. The inequalities can be witnessed in the rural-urban divide as well. Only 31.5 percent of hospitals and 16 per cent hospital beds are situated in rural areas where 75 percent of total population resides,” says the report.

Similarly, 21.8 percent of the rural primary health centers do not have doctors, and 67.96 percent of the community health centres are without specialist doctors.

Citing a study titled “The Cost of Universal Healthcare in India,” the report suggests that the Indian government needs to spend 3.8 per cent (INR 5.5 lakh crore) of the GDP for universalizing health care services. 

“Taxing the top 100 Indian billionaires at 10 percent would cover this amount. Low budget allocation in healthcare has its impacts at various levels. For example, India has a significant burden of child malnutrition. Malnutrition has been found to be the leading risk factor for the death of children under the age of five in India,” the report adds.

 The report points out that the current state of public health in the country has left one with no option other than availing private healthcare. Indians, it adds, pay 63 percent of their medical expenses out of pocket (OOP), which is considered to be the highest in the world.

Earlier, a report by Brookings India which is based on NSSO surveys claimed that nearly 63 million or 7 percent of India’s population is pushed into poverty every year due to healthcare expenses.

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