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FHS India Research Brief 2 - A Parallel Health Care market: Rural Medical Practitioners in West Bengal, India

Future Health Systems

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Despite a strong infrastructural base of the public health care facilities in many Indian states, the majority of outpatient services, especially in the rural areas, are provided by private health care providers, most of whom practice modern allopathy without any formal training. This section of medical practitioners is often identified as Rural Medical Practitioners (RMPs), “unqualified”, “less than fully qualified (LTFQ)” providers, or simply “quacks”. West Bengal is no exception, where, according to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-II) conducted in 1995-96; about 60 percent of the households visited the private medical sector for outpatient care when they fell sick. This research brief attempts to present some recent evidences to help understand the role and relevance of rural medical practitioners (RMPs) in the context of West Bengal's health care system. It is based on the outputs of a study recently carried out by Institute of Health Management Research (IHMR) in three districts of West Bengal.