Charting a path to universal health care in India

India has been one of the nations hardest-hit by COVID-19, but the pandemic’s painful health and economic consequences may be opening up an opportunity for change. A new commission jointly organized by The Lancet medical journal and Harvard’s Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute is studying how to bring universal health care to India within a decade. Launched February 8, 2021, the commission anticipates producing a report by August 2022.

Vikram Patel, professor in the Department of Global Health and Population at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a professor at Harvard Medical School, is co-chairing the commission, and S.V. Subramanian, professor of population health and geography at Harvard Chan School, is a commission member.

Patel said that the commission will look at longstanding inequities in India’s health care system. The nation has a publicly funded health care system, but it is widely seen as inadequate. Higher quality care is available through private providers, but they require out-of-pocket payment, making routine visits inaccessible to most people. Noted Patel, “Today, India’s health care system is routinely ranked as one of the worst in the world. A few get expensive, world-class care, while a large part of the population doesn’t even get basic quality care.”

Read Harvard Gazette coverage: Amid pandemic tragedy, an opportunity for change?