Heal the nation before healing the rest of the world
The Health Ministry recently released a set of implementation guidelines for a long overdue Indian public health cadre. A more recent announcement, however, raises concerns over the coherence of India’s vision with respect to health human resources.
WHO forecast for India
- Scarcity of human resources- A World Health Organization (WHO) 2020 report projected a requirement of nearly two million more doctors and nursing professionals for India in order to attain the minimum threshold ratio of healthcare professionals to the population.
- Skillmix of healthcare professionals -As per a study by WHO and the Public Health Foundation of India, over and above a veritable shortage of healthcare personnel and their skewed skillmix across a number of States, their current pace of growth is unlikely to result in any significant improvement in the density or skillmix of healthcare professionals by 2030.
- Healthcare professionals outside the labour force - Such inadequacies are further compounded by the legions of healthcare professionals who remain inactive and outside the labour force.
Soft power projection
- Projection of soft power- Health care particularly in the postCOVID19 era has been a fertile ground for countries to project soft power at times even at the expense of the nation’s own health interests.
- Healthcare exports- There is a distinction between exporting products such as vaccines and that of healthcare professionals. While the first is characterised by a much simpler transactional math, training healthcare manpower entails large subsidies (even a fraction of which is hardly recovered through remittances and skill transfers), thus entailing a net drain of resources from the native country
- Medical Tourism- A similar draw on scarce national healthcare resources is laid through medical tourism which is almost always to the detriment of health equity, particularly in developing settings such as India.