In Conversation with Dr S S Lal
“Future of Public Health in Kerala”
17 Jan 2019 | 4.30 pm | CPPR
“The health policy of Kerala should set goals for the next 25 years.” Speaking at the in-house talk organized by the CPPR Centre for Comparative Studies on ‘Future of Public Health in Kerala’, Dr S.S. Lal stressed on the challenges and future goals that need to be considered while framing the health policy. Dr. S.S Lal is a seasoned public health expert who has extensively worked in both developed and developing countries. He is currently the TB Technical Director, PATH, Washington DC.
Though Kerala is the leading Indian state in terms of health outcomes, the planning for the future should still be our priority. The health policy should be influenced by the changing social scenario in the state viz. ageing population, influx of migrant population and so on. He added that there was undue focus on curative rather than preventive medical interventions. It is important to focus on both the areas as a future vision. He also stressed on the need for discussions on the equitable provision of public healthcare, especially in light of the tight budgetary resources of the state.
Kerala is going through a demographic transition. Despite the low mortality rates, morbidity in the state is on the rise. The incidence of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, cancer and cardio-vascular diseases are found to be increasing. There is no effective mechanism to control the rise of non-communicable and lifestyle diseases. However, he also noted that the higher diagnosis of non-communicable diseases like diabetes, cancer, and heart ailments could be attributed to the increased life expectancy and sophisticated diagnostic tools in today’s times. Earlier, a person didn’t live long enough to develop a disease in his/her later years. Also, the technological revolution in medical field has tremendously improved the efficiency of diagnosis.
Dr Lal also shared his insights on medical education in India. He stated that medical students who spend millions of rupees to become a doctor have to look for ways to survive. This explains the shift of doctors towards urban areas where the compensation and the services accorded to the doctor are higher. He also added that the myth of foreign degrees should be addressed. There are some foreign medical degrees that are sub-optimal and students/parents should study about the course and college before applying for it.
Dr. Lal stressed on the importance of both the public and private health sector. He opined that the rise of the private sector was due to the gap created by public health sector. He said the rise of private health sector must be recognised as legitimate as long as there is no exploitation. Instead of questioning said legitimacy, the public sector should strive to be more efficient in service delivery.
Progress in the health sector need not come at the behest of the government. All stakeholders should be a part this process and not wait for a government directive to show initiative. Kerala’s socio-economic conditions are changing each passing day. The state has visitors from other states and countries and the system should be well prepared to fight the new and old diseases that may plague the state. The concerned stakeholders must visualize the challenges of the future decades and craft a health policy around the same while reflecting the realities of today.
Dr Martin Patrick, Chief Economist, CPPR presented a memento to the speaker after which Dr Anupama Ghosh, Senior Research Associate, CPPR delivered the vote of thanks.
Report prepared by Chithira Rajeevan (Research Assistant) with inputs from Shreyas S P (Research Intern)