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

Public health should be led by doctor alone


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Health care sector reforms

public healthContext

  • Doctor shortages are creating hurdles in health emergency response

What is the crux of the article in simple words?

  • Medical qualification and expertise is necessary to deliver quality health services by medical professionals unlike by general health care workers who lack competency.

What is public health?

  • Public health has been defined as “the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organized efforts and informed choices of society, organizations, public and private, communities and individuals”.

Why there is need of qualification?

  • Lack of training: Health workers have no training in public health; they are grassroots-level service providers. Asking them to be part of public health cadre trivialises the profession of public health.
  • Separate profession: It is important to understand that public health is a separate profession with a specific set of competencies.

public healthWhat are 4 pillars of public health?

  • Academics: Academics refers to a good understanding of evidence generation and synthesis by having a good grounding in epidemiology and biostatistics. These competencies are also critical for monitoring and evaluating programmes, conducting surveillance, and interpreting data and routine reporting.
  • Activism: Public health is inherently linked to ‘social change’ and an element of activism is core to public health. Public health requires social mobilisation at the grassroots level by understanding community needs, community organisation, etc. This requires grounding in social and behavioural sciences.
  • Administration: Administration refers to administering health systems at different levels from a primary health centre to the district, State, and national level. This includes implementing and managing health programmes, addressing human resource issues, supply and logistical issues, etc. It includes microplanning of programme delivery, team building, leadership as well as financial management to some extent.
  • Advocacy: In public health, there is little that one can do at an individual level; there must be communication with key stakeholders to change the status quo at different levels of government. This requires clear enunciation of the need, analysis of alternative set of actions and the cost of implementation or non-implementation. Good communication and negotiation skills are critical to perform this function. The related subjects are health policy, health economics, health advocacy and global health.

public healthWhat are the hurdles in absorbing others as public health professionals?

  • Lack of skill: Many doctors and other health professionals work at the grassroots level and develop a good sense of public health due to their inclination. But they do not become public health professionals as they may not have the necessary skills. Nevertheless, they are valuable.
  • Lack of critical expertise: Clinicians with training in epidemiology and biostatistics would not qualify to be public health professionals as they lack not only other essential and critical expertise but also an appropriate perspective.
  • Compromise on quality:

Current challenges faced by public healthcare in India

  • Deficiency: The doctor-patient ratio of 1:1655 in India as against WHO norm of 1:1000 clearly shows the deficit of MBBS. While the government is working towards a solution and targeting to reach the required ratio, there is a need to relook at the overall medical education.
  • Post pandemic scenario: The lag in formal medical education has come up evidently post-pandemic when the nation saw the medical fraternity struggling to fill the doctor deficit.
  • Limited government seats: The number of seats available for medical education in India is far less than the number of aspirants who leave school with the dream of becoming doctors.
  • Lack of skills: Though the institutes are managing to hire professors and lecturers, there is a lack of technical skills. Finding faculties in clinical and non-clinical disciplines is difficult and there are very few faculty development programs for upskilling the existing lot.
  • Lack of infrastructure: The gap in digital learning infrastructure is currently the biggest challenge the sector is facing. There is an urgent need to adopt technology and have resources available to facilitate e-learning.
  • Lack of research and innovation: The medical research and innovation needs an added push as there haven’t been many ground-breaking research here. The education system needs to focus more on increasing the quality of research. Additionally since industry academia partnership is not available, hence innovation also takes a back-seat.


  • By establishing new medical colleges, the government can increase student intake as well as enhance equitable access to public health as separate profession. This will attract the best and the brightest people into this discipline, which is very important for the nation’s health. This is one lesson that we should learn from the pandemic.

Mains question

Q. What do you understand by public health? Do you think it is a separate profession requiring a specific set of competencies? Examine.

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