• News
  • Columns
  • Interviews
  • BW Communities
  • Events
  • BW TV
  • Subscribe to Print
BW Businessworld

Swasth Bharat is Key to Economic Growth

Seen from the prism of growing inequality health uncertainty perpetuates lifetime inequality, while efficient and reliable healthcare is an influential factor in establishing a good economy, and a better society

Photo Credit : Shutterstock


If health is wealth, we are the poorest nation in the world. Our policymakers have misdiagnosed healthcare, looking from the narrow prism of  ‘operational and technical’, when the solution is social and economic.  

Pulling the rich, poor pushed away:  Inadequate public infrastructure, poor facilities, deplorable services have pulled the rich and pushed the poor into the arms of private healthcare providers. Inadequate insurance coverage, lower penetration adds insult to ‘injury’. Most who ‘suffer’ the private healthcare providers, pay a high proportion from their pocket, pushing over 70 million into poverty every year. Exclusion, unaffordability, and poor-quality spiral the vicious cycle.

Instead of formulating policies, designing services in line with those policies and ensuring compliance, the government is satiated, often enthusiastic to play the role of a moderator. Hospitals rarely sell healthcare, the middleman does. And often, that middleman is the government. Abdication of responsibility denies the poor access and deprives most others of a ‘fair cost’ healthcare; while making the private sector ‘healthier’.

Health is no longer a personal issue. Most believe health is the ‘absence’ of illness. It is much more. Good health is an asset with intrinsic value and instrumental virtue. Health develops capacity and enhances potential. Lifelong. 

Health impacts the economy too: A Crux study across 14 states highlights a powerful correlation between health and the GDP. In instrumental terms, good health leads to higher productivity across several contexts; optimising human resources. Other indicators flourish too, notably positive effects on social cohesion and well-being. 

The study, linking cost to the nature and persistence of poor health and the price to the economic health, demonstrates a correlation between consumption, health and economy. A 10 per cent increase in life expectancy creates economic growth of around 1.1 per cent; productivity loss because of ill health reduces 10 per cent from the GNP per year. 

Human capital enables economic multipliers and is an influential factor in establishing a robust economy.

Economic burden: The cumulative cost of  bad health and the price one pays over the lifecycle is staggering. 

Indifferent health affects individuals in several ways and is substantial. The non-monetary cost of poor health is lower life expectancy and lifetime inequality. The return on investment for capability is lower, further increasing inequality. The next generation suffers too. There are several other negative outcomes as well, including untenable economic and flawed life decisions.   

The unhealthy earn significantly lower income (income-health gradient), due to fewer earning days (92 per cent vs 68 per cent) and 35 per cent lower earnings/day. This perpetuates, and is half as much by the time they retire, suggesting the accumulated effects of  bad health. Health, education and inclusion are the bedrock of a society, and economic multipliers.

Seen from the prism of growing inequality health uncertainty perpetuates lifetime inequality, while efficient and reliable healthcare is an influential factor in establishing a good economy, and a better society. The government needs to create an evolutionary ecosystem that has technology as the fulcrum for prevention and predicting, affordable diagnosis, effective delivery and scale. 

Healthcare is a multiplier: Two per cent of GDP on healthcare expenditure is lamentable and woeful. Investment in healthcare pays back in three years, and is  a five multiplier. They all seem like a good reason to pledge and allocate a higher budget to healthcare. Making healthcare a people’s right should be a good start. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Tags assigned to this article:
Swasth Bharat healthcare

Dr. Vikas Singh

The author is a senior economist, columnist, author and a votary of inclusive development

More From The Author >>