ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Primary Neglect


“Health for all is our goal ... It would be the government’s endeavour to evolve a system where every indi \vidual would have the advantage of having periodic health checks and where people can avail of expert guidance...”, declared prime minister A B Vajpayee, inaugurating the Rs 25 crore state-of-the-art Indo-American Cancer Institute and Research Centre at Hyderabad. Just so there is no confusion about who is to be held responsible for undergoing the health checks, the prime minister added, “the people will have to take an interest in it [the periodic health check-up]”. Evidently the incongruity of it all did not strike either the prime minister, his speech writers or the high-profile audience present at the inauguration.

It is of course commendable that the prime minister should want to make an ‘arrangement’ for everyone to have a periodic health check. But it is surprising that he should be entirely unaware that a health check is for those who do not suffer from illness most of the time – from diarrhoea and dysentery, cough, cold and worse, fever and debility. For the large majority of the population, absence of illness, which is rare enough, is sufficient good fortune. Only a fool would want to willingly enter the health system, with all its indirect and hidden costs, to actually look for a possible illness which has not yet become manifest. In an economy where food is the main item of consumption expenditure, and illness invariably leads to indebtedness, attitudes to hidden or potential illnesses are very different from those to be found in more affluent societies. On the other hand, there is no questioning the fact that early detection actually means lives saved, reduced debility due to the disease.

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