Healthcare in India can be traced back to ancient times, which has been documented in the Vedas and scriptures like Charak Samhita. The Indian system of medicine Ayurveda that took roots in ancient times, was believed to be divine knowledge that the gods passed on to the sages of yore. While there may be a mythological angle to the birth of Ayurveda, the fact that it is still is in use today is a testament to the type of medical knowledge possessed by our ancestors.
Once the initial phase of Ayurveda culminated, India witnessed an influx of physicians or hakims from foreign shores when foreigners invaded India around the 10th century. Modern allopathic medicine was first introduced by the Portuguese, while the British and the French introduced India to hospitals.
During the British rule in India in the 19th century, dispensaries were established at the district level to provide aid to the soldiers. When India got independence, there were around 7000 hospitals in the country, which wasn’t enough to cater to the country medical needs.
After the British left, India had a skeletal healthcare system, which needed plenty of attention from the government. Unfortunately, due to scant resources, the government of the day had priorities other than healthcare that needed attention. So, healthcare was made a state subject and the budget allocated to it was very little. The states couldn’t do justice to it and the complete system turned out to be a failure.
The later governments set up the planning commission and health surveys that yielded positive results such as eradicating and controlling epidemics. Primary healthcare centres were established in rural and urban areas. Emphasis began to be laid on higher education, national health programmes, and medical research.
With efforts like these on the part of the government, the healthcare steadily improved. The number of doctors went up to 1 doctor for 1000 people. There was an increase in the number of hospital beds, dispensaries, medical colleges, and hospitals. Then private players too entered the healthcare fray and the healthcare infrastructure of the country saw rapid development. All these factors saw India’s life expectancy rise from 32 years in 1947 to 69 years in 2018.
Recently the government also recognized Ayurveda, homoeopathy, yoga, Siddha and Unani as alternative treatment methods. In fact, amongst all these methods, yoga has gained a surge in popularity in the recent past with the government actively pushing as a preventive measure.
Although healthcare in India has been improving, there are still many impediments –
- Lack of awareness about the importance of good health, especially amongst the rural population.
- The size of India’s population and the resulting strain on the public healthcare infrastructure.
- Preventive healthcare is not widely prevalent.
- The fewer number of public hospitals in the country.
- Lack of public trust on certain sections of the medical fraternity.
These impediments are slowly being addressed over time by various governments at both the state and centre.
Note that India’s healthcare has seen plenty of successes too. Medical tourism is a burgeoning sector in India, it has been expected to amount to $ 9 billion by 2020. Then with India seeing a surge in smartphone usage and internet penetration, online pharmacies like PharmEasy have made lives easier for the common people. You can simply sit at home, order medicines online, and have them delivered to your doorstep at the click of a button. There are apps that also allow you to schedule online consultations with doctors.
With all these developments, we can conclude that things are only going to get better in the coming years. With the increased adoption of technology in healthcare delivery, costs will come down and make it easy for citizens to avail quality healthcare at affordable prices.
There is a long way to go before India’s healthcare sector is free from its current problems. But there is no denying that accessibility has improved vastly, regardless of one’s economic standing.