New Delhi: It is that time of the year when one of the world’s most polluted city – Delhi makes headlines across the world for its polluted air as it engulfed in a deadly smog, for a public health emergency to be declared. Authorities have responded by closing down schools, banning construction activity and kick-starting odd-even rule in the city, which is a traffic rationing measure under which cars with odd-numbered plates are allowed to ply on odd numbered-dates and the even-numbered plates can operate on even numbered-dates. But is that enough? Questions a new report titled ‘The State of Health in Delhi’ by Mumbai-based Praja Foundation, a non-partisan organisation that conducts data-driven research and provides information on civic issues to citizens.
The report that was released on November 7 said,
Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) data shows that Delhi had only five ‘good’ Air Quality Index (AQI) days in the last 4 years (2015 to 2018). Moreover, the average AQI levels in Delhi have been ‘poor’ in the past four years: 231 in 2015, 255 in 2016, 227 in 2017 and 2018.
An AQI between 0-50 is considered “good”, 51-100 “satisfactory”, 101-200 “moderate”, 201-300 “poor”, 301-400 “very poor”, and 401-500 “severe”. Above 500 is “severe-plus emergency” category.
The report further highlighted that the number of deaths caused by respiratory diseases that were aggravated by air pollution reflects a serious threat to the health od city’s residents. It further adds,
9,872 people in Delhi died of major respiratory diseases in 2017, which amounts to around 27 deaths per day in 2017. While in 2016, the number of deaths was 11,900 in 2016 due to respiratory ailments and diseases, which is about 33 deaths per day.
Apart from air pollution, the report also stated that poor quality of water supply is causing a high number of water-borne diseases in the city.
The report also highlighted that diarrhoea continues to be a huge health problem in Delhi, with over 5 lakh (5,14,052) cases in 2018-19. Whereas, in 2016-17 it was 5,96,161 and in 2017-18 it was 5,01,484. The report further said that Delhi also reported 51,266 cases of typhoid in 2018-19. The typhoid cases have increased as compared to 2017-18 data which was 51,090. The report said,
The high number of both diarrhoea and typhoid cases reflects the poor quality of water supply in the city as reflected in 36,426 water contamination complaints registered with Delhi Jal Board in 2018.
The report also mentioned about the top five sensitive diseases in Municipal Corporation Delhi and State Government Dispensaries in the year 2018-19 were Diarrhoea (5,14,052), Diabetes (3,27,799), Hypertension (3,11,396), Tuberculosis (68,722) and Typhoid (51,266).
Apart from this, the report highlighted that despite huge government spending on health, Delhi citizens had to spend 9.8 per cent of their household incomes on accessing quality healthcare. It stated, “Delhiites spent on an average 9.8 per cent of their household incomes on health, which if calculated according to per capita income as per GDP, is a total of Rs. 1,16,887 spent per household on healthcare in one year (2018-19).”
Talking about the situation of healthcare in Delhi and what needs to be done by the authorities in the city, a spokesperson from Praja Foundation said,
First and foremost, the government needs to take a strict policy action on health determinants such as pollution and contaminated water. Secondly, the government should work towards strengthening its existing health infrastructure with regular visits of specialist doctors in dispensaries and improving dispensary as well as OPD hospital timings from 8am to 10pm. Moreover, awareness about government insurance schemes must be done so that catastrophic healthcare expenditure can be reduced. Our survey, we founded that Delhiites were not very keen to use health insurances. Mere 6 per cent respondents had health insurance, out of which 69 per cent had private insurance schemes. Our findings showed that in spite of several facilities in the city, affordability in healthcare continues to be a serious concern.