Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Gender Disparities: Big Blindspot in India’s Health Policy


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Gender Gaps in Healthcare


  • Despite comprising nearly half of India’s health workforce, women face significant barriers in reaching leadership positions within the healthcare sector, highlighting deep-rooted gender disparities in health policy and decision-making.

Understanding the Gender Gap

  • Data revelations: Official data reveals that while women make up almost 50% of health workers in India, only 18% occupy leadership roles across various health panels, committees, hospitals, and ministries.
  • Impact of Gender Disparity: The over-representation of men at the top of the health pyramid perpetuates inequalities in decision-making and policymaking, leading to skewed health systems that fail to address the diverse needs of the population.

Insights from Research

  • Diversity Gaps: Recent research highlights the prevalence of diversity gaps in India’s National Health Committees, with an “over-concentration” of men, doctors, individuals from urban areas, and bureaucrats. This centralization of power risks excluding diverse perspectives and experiences, hindering the development of inclusive health policies.
  • Impact on Policy Formulation: The lack of gender diversity in health committees affects policy outcomes, as decisions are often made from a narrow lens, overlooking the nuanced needs of marginalized groups. For instance, the absence of women in decision-making bodies may lead to inadequate consideration of gender-specific health issues such as access to nutritious food for women.

Challenges Faced by Women

  • Professional Barriers: Women encounter various obstacles in advancing their careers in the health sector, including limited opportunities for promotion, unequal pay, and cultural expectations regarding gender roles.
  • Underrepresentation in Leadership: Women are significantly underrepresented in medical leadership positions, both within health committees and healthcare institutions, further perpetuating gender disparities in decision-making and policy formulation.

Recommendations for Change

  • Policy Interventions: Affirmative policies, such as reserving seats for women and marginalized groups in health committees, can help address gender disparities and promote inclusive decision-making.
  • Structural Reforms: Structural changes within healthcare institutions, such as promoting flexible working arrangements and providing dedicated resources for women leaders, are essential to breaking down barriers to gender equality in leadership.
  • Community Engagement: Involving directly affected communities in policy-making processes can ensure that health policies are responsive to the needs and priorities of the population, fostering greater inclusivity and accountability.


  • Achieving gender equality in health leadership requires concerted efforts to address systemic barriers and promote inclusive decision-making.
  • By prioritizing diversity and inclusivity in health policy, India can build more responsive and equitable health systems that serve the needs of all its citizens.

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