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Public Health and Cancer

In the 1940s an average Indian lived for 40 years. Today the life expectancy of an  Indian male and Indian female is 64.3 years and 68.5 years respectively.  Thanks to advancement in the field of medical sciences and increased awareness among the local populace, the life span of Indians has increased. 

The increased longevity positively impacts the country's dependency ratio. With a high percentage of the population falling in the bracket of 15-64 years, the benefits are seen in the form of increased work force thereby increasing the GDP of the country.

However, 71% deaths due to cancer are occurring in the age group of 30-69 years.  Even though Cancer is tightening its grip over India, the country spends less than 1.5% of GDP towards public health. 

The low level of government spending indicates that a significant proportion of medical expenses are borne by the patients themselves.  

The average costs of treating a cancer patient at a government establishment is 593 whereas the average income per person is $ 1219.  The cost incurred towards treatment has a negative impact not only on the patient but also affects the welfare of the family members. 

The biggest concern that public health professionals have expressed is the lack of affordable and equitable cancer care in India. Most of the district hospitals and other medical establishments in the hinterland of the country do not have adequate facilities to provide  treatment to growing number of cancer patients.  

While the incidence of cancer is comparatively low in India, the mortality  levels coincide with those in the West. Studies have identified several reasons for the high mortality levels, primarily the already existing gap between the "demand and supply".  In addition the country also deals with malnutrition, hunger, bacterial and viral infections and  improper sanitation which makes it difficult to battle the disease. 

Effective public health policies to abridge the existing gap and policies to combat he growing burden of non communicable diseases in the country are the need of the hour. Cost effective screenings and treatment which can detect cancer in early stages should be an integral part of affordable cancer care in India.



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