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J&K’s health sector grapples with challenges amidst positive indicators

SRINAGAR, NOV 16: The health sector in Jammu and Kashmir faces formidable challenges due to the scarcity of medical professionals in peripheral areas and the limited presence of the private health sector outside the capital cities, according to a recent government report.

The Vision Document 2047 highlights concerns about the decline in the child sex ratio and sheds light on emerging communicable diseases, emphasising the threat they pose to public health.

The government report reveals a significant drop in the child sex ratio of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, from 941 in Census 2001 to 862 in Census 2011.

However, the latest National Family Health Survey-5, released in 2020, indicates improvement in the sex ratio at birth, rising from 923 in 2015-16 to 976 in 2019-20, with the Sample Registration System (SRS) data of 2020 showing a further increase from 918 to 921.

One of the major challenges identified is the inadequate presence of medical professionals in peripheral areas and the limited role of the private health sector outside the capital cities. This situation poses a significant hurdle to effective healthcare delivery in Kashmir.

The report also draws attention to the emergence of new communicable diseases and their variants, such as Ebola, bird flu, swine flu, Zika, and the coronavirus. These diseases, capable of assuming epidemic and pandemic forms, pose a considerable threat to the health sector. Additionally, the increased prevalence of non-communicable diseases like anaemia, hypertension, diabetes, and cancer adds to the complex health landscape.

A notable concern highlighted in the report is the rising issue of drug abuse among the youth, leading to health problems and presenting a major threat to the health sector of Jammu and Kashmir.

Despite these challenges, the government report points out several positive developments. The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) score has improved from 62 to 70, according to NITI Aayog. Jammu and Kashmir has achieved global targets for the Under-5 Mortality Rate and Fully Immunized Children of 9-11 months. The universal health coverage for the entire population under PMJAY-SEHAT stands at 98 percent, and the percentage of fully immunized children (12-23 months) is nearing saturation.

Life expectancy at birth in Jammu and Kashmir has reached 74.1 years, ranking third highest in the country after Kerala and Delhi. The Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) has declined to 16.3 per 1000 lives, with a decrease of 16 points as per NFHS-5 data. Moreover, Jammu and Kashmir has already achieved the replacement level of fertility. Geographically, the report notes that the presence of health institutions aligns with Indian Public Health Standards (IPHS) norms, and world-class infrastructure is being developed across all regions of Jammu and Kashmir. The Health Department has significantly enhanced infrastructure and logistics in preparation for various diseases and pandemics over the past couple of years, reflecting a commitment to addressing health challenges in the region. 

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