I was strolling down the busy streets of Dalhousie Square in Calcutta, the old office area of the city. Congested as usual, these place houses many small offices, trading zones, government offices and financial institutions. Choking black smoke from vehicles, fuming smoke from cigarettes, cars honking away to glory, dust making its usual rounds, and various wastes lying on the pavement kicked around by pedestrians.
It was the 7th of April. The day was auspicious but no one bothered. World health Day is nothing more than a general knowledge questions to the millions of common men throughout the world. A common man thinks he is healthy as long as he is not sick. Little do we realize that from the safe delivery of a baby to the dignity of the frail elderly, health systems have a vital and continuing responsibility to every people throughout his lifespan.
Gro Harlem Brundtland, the Director General of WHO said "The way health systems are designed, managed and financed affects people's lives and livelihoods. The difference between a well-performing health system and one that is failing can be measured in death, disability, impoverishment, humiliation and despair."
100 years ago, organized health systems in the modern sense barely existed. Few people alive then would ever visit a hospital. Most were born into large families and faced an infancy and childhood threatened by a host of potentially fatal diseases ' measles, small-pox, malaria and poliomyelitis among them. Infant and child mortality rates were very high, as were maternal mortality rates. Life expectancy was short ' even half a century ago it was a mere 48 years at birth. Birth itself invariably occurred at home, rarely with a physician present.
Health is generally the prerogative of the respective government, but with large-scale health hazards prevailing in the world, it is necessary that organizations like World Health Organizations step in and contribute in a major way. Often it is seen that governments fail to spend enough on health resources, while allocating the money to other avoidable contexts like defense weapons and security. The result is a large number of preventable deaths and lives stunned by disability and the ratio of such unfortunate incidents heavily tilt towards the common man.
United Nations officials have calculated that the global population reached six billion on 13th October 1999. On that day, in a maternity clinic in Sarajevo, a baby boy was symbolically designated as the sixth billionth person on the planet. He entered the world with a life expectancy of 73 years, the current Bosnian average.
In this new millennium where we are just short of promising the people a slice of the moon, teeming millions still suffer from epidemics, thousands die of fatal diseases like Aids, innumerable people suffer from various forms of cancer, and hundreds still die of one silly mosquito bite. Family planning is not performing according to plan. Life expectancy is increasing with a death ratio stagnant. Hence the world population is constantly on the rise. Apart from natural diseases we have more fatal diseases made by man ranging from chemical and nuclear holocausts to the harmless looking tobacco smoking. Lack of proper infrastructure, housing and sanitation often increases the chances of infection and often trigger off an epidemic.
Within all systems there are many highly skilled, dedicated people working at all levels to improve the health of their communities. As the new century begins, health systems have the power and the potential to achieve further extraordinary improvements. Unfortunately, health systems can also misuse their power and squander their potential. Poorly structured, badly led, inefficiently organized and inadequately funded health systems can do more harms than good.
To improve world health condition, NGOs play an important role. Associations like Nirmal Hriday in Calcutta, founded by Mother Teresa, contribute a lot towards helping the poor and needy avail bare minimal medical care. NGOs surely have better infrastructure, better financing capabilities and are more dedicated than government organizations. Policy-makers need to know why health systems perform in certain ways and what they can do to improve the situation. All health systems carry out the functions of providing or delivering personal and non-personal health services; generating the necessary human and physical resources to make that possible; raising and pooling the revenues used to purchase services; and acting as the overall stewards of the resources, powers and expectations entrusted to them.