Overview of Healthcare in India

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Medical care in India can very definitely be divided into several different levels, depending on where you live and how much you can afford to pay. Private hospitals in the big cities are numerous and have very good facilities, but with rooms costing anything from 50k Rs per night (£700) plus treatment, it is clear that this is not in the range of many typical Indians. Medical insurance is provided by many companies familiar worldwide, such as Fortis and Bupa, but again this is not easily affordable with the average wage in India according to the most recently available figures being less than £250 a year.

Charities feature very frequently in any report on medical care available to the grassroots population in India, and in the list children’s charities are most numerous, as is only right. One third of India’s one billion population live below the poverty line and almost half of the general population are illiterate, so education is almost as important as improved medical care. While people do not understand about the importance of adequate nutrition and clean water then it is hard to improve the general health of the area, so this is often the first line of attack of charities. Volunteer staff in clinics in more deprived areas are also a very important factor in delivering healthcare in the Republic of India.

Dentists at work

Alongside volunteer clinics in the countryside and the top range hospitals in the cities there are two other levels of medical care in India, one very ancient and one very new. The traditional medicine on which many people still depend is divided also into two main strands, the ayurvedic system, is a very holistic method dealing in a scientific way with every aspect of ill health whether mental or physical. Some of the balancing teas and tinctures are popular in the West. The other strand is the unani, which is similar to herbalists in western alternative medicine. Training in these methods is now available, although in more outlying places the roles of practitioner is more often passed down through families, with information being spread by word of mouth.

A Hindu Temple in India

The other medical care available in India is very new and its impact is yet to be empirically measured and this is medical tourism. With health systems over-loaded in many western countries, it is becoming more common for people to pay to go and have an elective procedure, including recovery, in another country. Medical care in India in the best hospitals is easily the equal of anything available elsewhere and with the relatively low prices being quoted by the many medical tourism companies which have sprung up in recent years for many people this may seem to be the answer. For the patient with no other underlying conditions and a low risk of complications this may well work, but it is a risk which a reputable company will be at pains to explain. In some cases, surgeons will put some of the profits of medical tourism back into the system, and if this is the case it can only improve medical care for the disadvantaged who live locally. Time will tell if it results in an overall improvement in medical care for the population of India as a whole.

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