In India, there are a little more than 1 million allopathic doctors to treat a population of about 1.39 billion people, with one state-run hospital for every 90,343 persons, and one government hospital bed for every 2,046 persons, which depicts an overburdened healthcare system.
In an already fragmented healthcare system, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been devastating; clearly highlighting the lack of resources, facilities, and infrastructure, and has clearly shown that the Indian healthcare system requires an integrated approach through the combination of allopathic clinical/curative services with preventive, promotive services like Naturopathy. The alternative system of medicine like naturopathy with its preventive approach can help reduce the burden of diseases and lessen the healthcare costs and overgrowing burden on healthcare facilities across the country.
The Major Burdens on the Indian Healthcare System
According to a study published by the Lancet Global Health in 2018, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are growing in India. The study mentions that from the year 1990 to 2016, ischemic heart disease and stroke made the largest contribution to the total burden of mortality in India at 28.1%, while chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma made the second-largest contribution to the total mortality burden in India, at 10·9%. Also, the contributory ratio of cardiovascular diseases to mortality increased by 34·3% from 1990 to 2016, the study revealed. These figures represent some of the world’s largest health losses, with enormous policy ramifications.
Furthermore, the lack of adequate facilities and infrastructure is a big dent in the healthcare system, resulting in overcrowding in hospitals. Many major metropolitan cities reported an alarming shortage of spaces in hospital intensive care units (ICUs) and general wards during this pandemic.
Out-of-pocket payments for health care in India continue to be among the leading causes of poverty for many households. The British Medical Journal published a study in 2018 stating that 55 million Indians fell below the poverty line because of high out-of-pocket (OOP) expenditure in 2011-2012.
In a country with low per capita public spending on health care, a preventive method of treatment can certainly make a big difference in the lives of the general population.
How Naturopathy Can Help
Naturopathy is a preventive model of holistic care that addresses the disease’s root cause rather than merely treating the symptoms. The naturopathy approach is more integrated, where everything is taken into consideration, like the patient’s physical, mental, and emotional health and all the social and environmental factors. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), non-communicable diseases result in the deaths of over 41 million people annually, with 15 million people between the ages of 30 and 69. With the increasing threat of NCDs, behavioural and lifestyle changes are reckoned as the way forward. Naturopathy, with its holistic approach, educates and makes people responsible for their health. The combination of Yoga therapy and Naturopathy can successfully treat patients and spread knowledge and awareness about health & disease among the public.
Unlike conventional medicine, the naturopathic treatment method usually involves diet therapy, lifestyle changes, yoga, and various therapies that are often less expensive. Since naturopathy’s primary focus is to improve the body’s immunity power to boost physical and mental health, the need for expensive, repeated, and sometimes ineffective treatment is eliminated.
A major advantage of naturopathy is its ability to eliminate the associated healthcare costs that come with adverse reactions to prescription drugs. According to a Harvard University study published in 2014, about 328,000 patients in the U.S. and Europe die from adverse reactions to prescription drugs each year. A naturopathic treatment method uses therapies that are gentle, non-invasive, effective, and do not have adverse side effects.
Often at times, economically vulnerable sections of the society fail to get the treatment they need from public health facilities as they are mostly overcrowded and understaffed. Even if they manage to get evaluated, it is cursory and incomplete on account of the time constraint under which most physicians operate. As a result, the health outcomes of the patients suffer. In such a scenario, the Naturopathy modality of healthcare can be an immense support to the government’s dream of universal health coverage, provided the standardisation of the practice happens soon.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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