The NGO Praja Foundation’s latest report raises many, many red flags on the state of health of Mumbai. Despite being the financial capital, Mumbai ranks poorly on many key health indicators.
The number of dengue cases has gone up by nearly 117% from 2011 to 2015 and the number of people dying of dengue has also doubled in the same period. TB continues to be a major threat with the disease claiming 7000 lives a year.
This is despite the fact that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation spends nearly Rs 220 crores every year on public. Clearly there is little to show given the enormous sums spent.
Some of BMC’s initiatives like the fight against malaria are showing results. Malaria figures have stabilized due to the Fight the Bite campaign but a lot more needs to be done to eradicate the disease. Most critical is to look at improving the BMC’s surveillance system. BMC records for 2015 show just 16 malaria deaths. On the other hand, the Public Health Department issued death certificates in 92 cases where the cause of death was malaria. There is a similar discrepancy in TB figures within the BMC departments.
Apart from revamping the surveillance and reporting systems, the report also highlights the need to strengthen the public health system, which is hopelessly inadequate to meet the needs of the city’s population. Most people opt for public hospitals as they are affordable but there is a severe shortage of staff, from doctors to nursing staff.
One of the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs) is to end the spread of water-borne and communicable diseases by 2030. It’s a commitment that India too has made. And if this is the state of health in a city that is considered to have the best public health system in India, then the government needs to take a relook at its health priorities.