China has remained on top of the list of the most populous countries in the world since 1950. Not anymore, though. India, whose population recently touched the 1.4 billion mark according to estimates, has surpassed the number of residents in China by 5 million. The growing population of India has always been seen as something not in favour of the nation. It strains the availability of basic resources and services, from food to education, in the country. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, the health of the massive Indian citizenry has also been in focus. What is the health status of the world’s most populous country?
Over the years, the fertility rate has decreased in India. According to UN data, the fertility rate in India has dropped from an average of six children per woman in 1964 to 2.1 children per woman. A fall in fertility rate can lead to improved health outcomes for both women and children, as the focus is on the quality of their lives instead of spreading resources thin to match the number of demands.
However, there are concerns regarding the prevalence of obesity in the country. According to a report by World Obesity Federation, In India, the rate of the annual increase in adult obesity is very high at 5.2% while the rate of the annual increase in child obesity is also very high at 9.1%. Women in India are expected to get obese at the highest rate, while girls will follow suit at the lowest rate.
The report by the Federation has also warned that if limits on the promotion of unhealthy food are not implemented, the number of people who are clinically obese will increase in the coming years from one in seven today to one in four by 2035.
India has seen mixed progress in terms of cancer burden. According to a report by The Times of India, the incidence of uterine cervix cancer has dropped from 45 to 10 per 1,00,000 population in the last five decades. The situation is grim when it comes to more prominent cancers, though. The rate of breast cancer is on the rise in urban centres. There has been little progress in catching cancer early– something that is crucial to preventing deaths. High levels of pollution in the country are likely to lead to a significant rise in rates of lung cancer in the future.
There is a huge gap in access to healthcare as well. Rural India, which accounts for about two-thirds of the country’s population, sees a major shortage of healthcare centres and specialists. According to a 2022 study published in The Lancet, data from community health centres (CHCs) reveals a shortfall of 79.9 percent specialists compared to the requirement. Of the total sanctioned posts for specialists at CHCs, 68 percent are vacant.
With time there will be an increase in elderly dependence. We will have more people past their prime youth, and India will be ageing. The country remains inadequately equipped to take care of a largely dependent and more illness-prone population.
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