Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Health Care in India: Vision 2030- Part I

(This article concentrates on the health problems and issues in our nation. The next part will focus on the possible solutions for our health care system.)

As I am typing this article, 4 people die and an additional 2 are born.  This is the second most populated country in the world- India.
India is the diabetic capital of the world. 

Approximately, 1.6 million people of our enormous population are affected by the incurable AIDS. We rank 2nd in child malnutrition in the world and that is worse than many African countries. 665 million people in India excrete out in the open grounds. 100 million people in India suffer from hypertension and 31% of urban Indians are obese. 

And by 2030, India will be the most populated country on the planet.

This is health care in India in 2012. This is the stark reality. This is what we are facing. And this is what we need to change.

These are not just mere numbers and statistics- they reflect the naked truth and the pathetic situation our health system is in.

While one side of the nation gorges itself on burgers and pizzas, millions of people leave this planet unable to afford even a single meal. We boast of an array of multispecialty hospitals and world class surgeons yet people in our country die because they don’t have access to first aid.

India’s health care system is plagued by Manpower shortfall, low public expenditure, and weak infrastructure, lack of awareness, inadequate resources and dramatic lifestyle changes.

The reason why there are so many infected people in our nation is simply due to the fact that we do not have enough doctors; currently, there is a demand for 600,000 physicians and the numbers are projected to increase in the near future.

We produce countless number of medical graduates every year, yet they are not enough. This is because the population of our country is growing by the second in enormous proportions and hence, we do not have the educated manpower to tackle the issue.

Another problem is the exodus of doctors to the greener pastures abroad in search of a better lifestyle and working atmosphere.  Indian doctors form the largest percentage of non-native doctors across the entire world. If such a large number of doctors are bent upon making the other countries a healthy place, what will happen to our India?
The Indian medical system is short of proper funds from the government as it spends only 0.9% of the GDP. And this has resulted in poor facilities in hospitals- a deficit of 30 lakh beds.

Lack of awareness in rural areas has been a major issue for the multiplication of diseases. People do not know about sexual preventive measures or the necessity of proper nutrition and sanitation.

There has been a sudden surge in the occurrence of lifestyle diseases such as obesity, hypertension etc in the metropolitan cities. This is due to the adaption of the western way of living. We have aped their way of using branded apparels, high-end cars and fast food but we conveniently ignore their rigorous and religious approach to physical fitness and maintenance of health.

It is high time we address these rapidly growing health issues that are detrimental to the progress our nation.

We must understand that Health issues are not economically biased- diseases don't care whether you are rich or poor.

The majority of our population lives in rural areas while the remaining live in urban areas and both have their fair share of problems.

We must design an efficient health model that interlinks the urban and rural areas, implements technology and manpower effectively and economically profitable. 

Thursday, 7 June 2012

+1, +2, plus a few thoughts- The education system

(This article is written in the wake of the strenuous education system (matriculation) in the state of Tamil Nadu.)

Few days back, the board results of the tenth standard students have been announced and they must prepare to enter the “most grueling/life turning” two years of their life- such is the importance of the higher secondary years in our education system. 

When the tenth results were announced, I happened to be in Namakkal- the so called educational belt of Tamil Nadu. On that particular day, the town witnessed a procession of cars that resulted in road blocks- anxious parents eager to enroll their children into these schools so that their future is secured. In their opinion, its just good marks, good marks and good marks alone.

But do marks alone form the basis of education? 

The purpose of the education system at the school level is to enrich the student with the basic knowledge in all sciences and to provide him an all round development that will establish a good launching pad for his further pursuits.

The current scenario of the +1 and +2 school years is bleak in our state. Students are subjected to two years of rigorous hard work where they are confined only to the covers of the books. Schools have changed from being “centers of learning” to “mark producing factories”. Students are merely treated as machines that are designed for the task of obtaining high marks.

In order to achieve this feat, many schools skip the +1 portions (which form the basis for education in colleges) and make the students study the +2 portions for two years. Students are made to write revision tests daily and mug the same again and again till they are able to reproduce (or vomit) in the board exams.  Such is the impact of these schools; parents are willing to shell out large stacks of cash to get their wards admitted.

These schools also admit only the students who attain high percentages in the 10th board examinations. For instance, this year at a certain school in Namakkal, students who got below 470 marks were denied admissions. And for those students who are admitted, they are separated into classes according to their marks (the better ones get better coaching and the lesser ones do not). Thus, they create a stark discrimination among the students which affects their psychology and performance to a great extent.

There has been a culmination of factors that has resulted in this situation. Education has become a very profitable business- with seats selling like hot cakes. The schools guarantee for good marks and hence the admissions keep on coming.

Poor quality of government schools is another major reason for this huge dominance of private players. Government schools in our state are devoid of infrastructure and hence experiences a lack in student strength.

And in this business oriented approach, education has become a race-where students have to edge each others out to make the cut and in the process, records are toppled every year. Sometimes, even a 96% score would not be sufficient for the creamy layer of colleges.

But, is this real success? Are we not losing something in the bigger picture?

The schools have shifted their focus of prime importance from “attainment of knowledge by the student” to “obtaining of marks”; the end result is that these schools churn out half baked students who have not gained complete knowledge and also lack in overall development. 

This is an area of huge concern that the state government needs to address quickly. The quality of government schools must be improve. The government schools should be equipped with furnished classrooms, laboratories with latest equipments, playgrounds, indoor stadiums, library and an arts center. Professional teachers must be given decent salary packages and the environment should be conducive for students. Free meals should be provided to the economically backward students.

if this scenario is to change, the government needs to become the big Daddy of education (as in the cases of UK, US) where people of all economic strata get a fair shot at the board exams. 

The curriculum must be revamped with importance meted out to physical fitness, various arts, sports and the overall shaping of the student.

True, marks are important. But are marks alone the criteria for a successful student? 

It is time our schools started producing successful students who can shape the future of the nation and make India a superpower in the coming years.