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UPSC EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : Populism does not help public health


Source: The Hindu

  • Prelims: Current events of national importance, Informal workers, ILO, UNDP, Census, Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) etc
  • Mains GS Paper I & II: Development and management of social sectors/services related to Health and education etc


  • India has a stated goal of eliminating tuberculosis by 2025.
  • Tamil Nadu has taken a step towards achieving this goal by improving and focusing on services at the primary healthcare level





  • A certain totality of health to the realms of mental and social well-being and happiness beyond physical fitness, and an absence of disease and disability.
  • We cannot achieve health in its wider definition without addressing health determinants.


Public health:

  • It is about treating diseases.
  • It is about preventing them, requiring expertise from various fields such as environmental science, sociology, urban planning, and economics.
  • The current physician-centric focus of India’s public health system often fails to capture this comprehensive nature.


Healthcare System:



Diseases eliminated:

  • Smallpox (though eradicated, it is still under surveillance)
  • polio
  • neonatal tetanus
  • measles

Initiatives that promise immediate results:

  • New hospitals
  • Subsidized treatments in private hospitals
  • Emergency response (over preventive response)
  • Populist health policies.


Issues associated with these initiatives:

  • They do not have much of an impact because of a lack of action beyond public announcements
    • Due to budgetary constraints.
  • These schemes divert attention from critical areas such as sanitation, disease surveillance, and public health education, which are important to maintain population health and prevent disease outbreaks.
  • The case of dengue: Dengue has only symptomatic treatments, and no definitive cure.
    • When cases surge, political leaders mobilize the State machinery to set up immediate relief camps at the expense of long-term strategies
    • such as understanding vector bionomics or developing effective vaccines.
  • The focus on providing emergency relief
    • sidelines the availability of public attention for the root causes of disease
    • its long-term prevention
    • the research required in vector control
    • vaccine development
    • improvement in public health infrastructure.

What steps need to be taken?

  • Borrowing an idea from the architecture of India’s judicial setup and the space programme, health care will benefit from being separated from political processes.
  • Public health decisions should be based on scientific evidence and long-term goals rather than short-term political interests.
    • This separation will ensure public health policies are driven by data and expertise, not electoral cycles.
  • Investments in nutrition programmes, while not immediately visible, have far-reaching implications for health and productivity.


Prime Minister’s Overarching Scheme For Holistic Nourishment (POSHAN) Abhiyan Scheme:

  • It plans to reduce stunting by 2%, undernutrition by 2%, anemia by 3%, and low birth weight by 2% every year.

Fifth National Family Health Survey:

  • It found 5% of children under five were stunted and 32.1% were underweight in 2019-21.
  • The prevalence of anemic children aged 6-59 months increased from 6% to 67.1%, and 54.1% to 59.1% among women aged 15-19 years.

Way Forward

  • Effective public health management should encompass preventive measures, policy formulation, community health, and environmental health, among others.
  • In public health, adopting a separation of powers approach is essential.
  • A fair and effective health system requires freedom from political influence, focusing on policymaking and implementation driven by scientific evidence and long-term objectives.
  • Prioritizing health decisions based on scientific evidence and overarching public health goals are crucial
  • Place Health Ministries directly under the leadership of elected officials, such as the Chief Minister or the Prime Minister, similar to the management of the space and the atomic energy departments.
    • It would provide a degree of autonomy and ensure that health policies are aligned with the people’s immediate and practical needs
    • striking a balance between expert-driven decisions and public aspirations.
  • Infectious diseases, non-communicable diseases, health-care access, mental health, and misinformation pose challenges that demand a more holistic, long-term approach in public health policy.
  • A separation of health-care decision-making from short-term political goals is crucial to develop sustainable health strategies that address both the immediate and future health needs of the population.


Besides being a moral imperative of the Welfare State, primary health structure is a necessary precondition for sustainable development.” Analyze.(UPSC 2021) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)