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WP4 - Health, Equity and Poverty Exploring the Links in West Bengal, India

Future Health Systems

India is on a fast-track growth path and the health care market is opening up with new opportunities. However, impressive growth with inadequate social protection may lead to newer vulnerabilities, inequalities, and health related poverty. The study focused on one Indian state (West Bengal) to explore the link between health, poverty, and equity against this dynamic backdrop. Primary data - from households and different types of providers - were collected from three districts of the state.

West Bengal is a middle level achiever in economic front but one of the top rankers (among all major Indian states) in most of the basic health indicators although the rural areas are significantly behind the urban. The state has a huge infrastructure of government's health facilities supplemented by an assortment of private health care providers, which play a minor role in preventive and inpatient care but a major role in ambulatory care. Despite an impressive growth of public spending on health over the last 15 years, the share of health in total budget has been declining. Inadequacy of public spending reflects in high out of pocket expenses on health which is about three times more than the former.