The Lancet, one of the world's most prestigious medical journals, has drawn attention to Prime Minister Modi's signature healthcare initiative Ayushman Bharat and the impact the same could have on the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls in 2019. The journal, while lauding the Prime Minister's initiative, has drawn attention to some startling facts on the prevailing healthcare situation in India which make the government's initiative all the more timely and praiseworthy.
India is said to be reeling under an epidemic of non-communicable diseases. It is estimated that the incidence of cardiovascular diseases has seen an exponential rise and its contribution to the number of deaths recorded has almost doubled. The number of Indians with diabetes problem has also swollen from 26 million in 1990 to 65 million in 2016, indicating a serious problem.
Worryingly, India is in the midst of a major mental health crisis as well, which is reflected in sharply above average figures for the number of suicides registered. India accounts for 37 per cent of suicide deaths among women globally while the corresponding figure for men in 2016 was 24 per cent. Moreover, suicide has been estimated to be the leading cause of death among the age-group of 15-39 year old people.
The scheme, also called Modicare, is reportedly the largest healthcare scheme in the world. It aims to cover over 10 crore vulnerable families (around 50 crore beneficiaries) and provide health cover up to Rs 5 lakh per family per year.
The editor-in-chief of Lancet, in a remarkable move for a global medical journal, has called the forthcoming polls the most important national elections in India since 1947. He has said that Modi is the first prime minister of India “to prioritise universal health coverage as part of his political platform”.
Predicting that "health will rightly become a decisive issue in next year's general election", the editor has criticised opposition leader and Congress Party President Rahul Gandhi for not being able to match Modicare even though he promises to do things for the tribal communities, lower castes and rural poor.
With the Prime Minister intent on an aggressive roll-out of the Ayushman Bharat scheme, health could be the sector which could drive the polls towards Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Patyy and the likelihood of the same has been advanced by none other than the Editor of Lancet himself.
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