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Water, sanitation, housing, nutrition, education and employment as basic human rights
Despite many decades of independent planning and implementation, most populations living in the developing world have yet to reach the utopian ideal of health for all. This editorial critically considers the issues and the situation in India to suggest alternatives.
The survival of the human body is best explained by the materialist explanation that locates the variation in health and longevity to tangible resources.1 The reciprocal relationship between poverty and disease had long been acknowledged by public health reformers2 who advocated social reform on political, economic, humanitarian and scientific grounds.
Successive governments in India have come up with many schemes for the provision of safe water, sanitation, nutrition, vaccination coverage, education and employment. Despite the many attempts, millions of people do not have access to these basic needs,3 malnutrition is rampant in children4 and vaccination coverage is inadequate among the poor. Elementary education is substandard5 and unemployment widespread in rural areas. Despite increased budgetary support for such schemes, most states have pursued weak policies in this area and neglected the local governments, giving them a low stake in improving infrastructure. The enormity of the unfinished tasks is mind‐boggling.
The context of public health in the developing world differs markedly from the social, economic and political environment in the West when public health became part of their culture and basic standard of life. The differences that need to be taken into account are as follows:
The different context of the public health scene in India has resulted in errors in the approach and includes:
The different scenario in India mandates a different framework and different solutions. The suggested alternatives include
Lastly, the deprivation of basic rights for large sections of the population and the gross disparity between the rich and the poor over a long period of time leads to disillusionment in the democratic process among the disadvantaged. The naxalite (maoist rebels) movement, with its philosophy of armed revolution spreading through many poor and deprived parts of India, is a clear indicator of such a trend.
The context of public health in India and the developing world demands a different framework and different solutions. There is a need for a people's movement that champions public health issues as basic rights. The egalitarian dream for India and the developing world should not die. The time for public health action is now.
I thank the CMC‐Anveshi Group for the inspiration and support.
Competing interests: None.