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Projecting a Rs 5.38 lakh crore requirement over the next five years for providing primary healthcare, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has said it will help deal with 90 per cent of the healthcare demands.
In a presentation to 15th Finance Commission, the Ministry said investment in primary healthcare could reduce the need for more costly and complex care by preventing illness and promoting general health.
There had been a lack of focus on health promotion and healthy lifestyle, causing high incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), it noted.
Four major NCDs -- cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and respiratory diseases -- account for nearly 62 per cent of all mortality among men and 52 per cent among women. Of this, 56 per cent is premature.
Noting the need for strengthening the primary healthcare system, the Ministry said public investment was the need of hour.
People end up spending more on secondary and tertiary healthcare due to lack of high-quality primary healthcare facilities. Over 70 per cent of out-of-pocket expenditure is on non-hospital care and nearly two-thirds of this goes towards buying medicines.
Dr Shakti Gupta, Medical Superintendent of RP Centre at AIIMS, said strengthening primary health centres and district hospitals was key to improving the system.
"If the primary healthcare centres and district hospitals are strengthened in terms of infrastructure, equipments and trained manpower, no one will have to rush to medical colleges and big cities for common health issues," Dr Gupta told IANS. "We spend more on tertiary care and less on primary healthcare," he said.
There is a huge shortfall in the primary healthcare infrastructure and professionals.
Around Rs 1.88 lakh crore would be needed to address the shortage of healthcare professionals, and Rs 90,336 crore to bridge the infrastructure gap, according to the Health Ministry.
The Finance Commission, headed by N.K. Singh, has asked the Ministry to come up with revised proposals on the optimum use of funds in respect of sector-specific grants.