NEW DELHI -- Leading medical journal, The Lancet, is set to publish a severe attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi for sidelining health since he came into power in May, 2014, while warning of a "collapse" if the country fails to invest in combating non-communicable diseases like diabetes and heart problems.
Written by global health experts, the study, which will be published on Dec. 11, will also censure Modi for not delivering on his poll promise of universal health coverage.
In an interview with The Times Of India, Richard Horton, editor-in- chief of The Lancet, said that "health is an issue of national security" for India, but Modi isn't taking it seriously.
"I don't see any new policies, any new ideas, any significant public commitment, and most importantly no financial commitment to the health sector," Horton said.
"Since Modi has come in, health has completely vanished. India is on the edge. If PM Modi does not tackle health, India's economy combined with rising population is not sustainable," he said.
Horton said that India's main problems are a lack of investment in the public health system and the growth of an unregulated private sector.
"And this imbalance between the unregulated private sector - and the quality of care in many cases appalling - compared with the public system that is struggling to meet the demands of the rising population," he said.
Noting that India currently spends 1% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on public health, Horton called on Modi to increase this figure, use his personal leadership in rolling out universal heath coverage, reduce child and maternal mortality, and address the epidemic of non-communicable diseases.
Horton said that India is standing at the crossroads, where it can decide to invest in the health of its citizens, or continue to sweep the problem under the carpet.
"At the moment, India is on the edge and it can take two routes," The Lancet chief said. "It can take a route of investing in health and investing in its people and creating a thriving and flourishing future for India, which has a part to play in world affairs, or it can do what it is doing now and ignore health in which case it will see epidemics sweep across the country creating an unsustainable future and destroying national security."
"I really think that it is that serious. At the moment PM Modi has not made up his mind on which choice he is going to take," he said.
On the promise of universal heath coverage, Horton told TOI that Modi had not delivered.
"In the paper, we will talk about health financing and service delivery. The problem in India is that health has just completely dropped off the political agenda. Before Modi came in, health was an issue that wasn't as high in the agenda as it should have been, but it was definitely on the agenda. Since Modi has come in, health has completely vanished and this is a desperate predicament for the Indian population not having health as a central political objective of the government," he said.
Mother And Child Care - National Shame
While acknowledging some improvements in mother and child care, Horton said that India still has 600,000 under five deaths, every year, the highest in the world in absolute terms, is a matter of "national shame."
"Maternal and child care are indicators of civilised society. Civilised society should not be letting its mothers and daughters die. India wants to play a larger role in the world, wants to be in the Security Council of the United Nations, which are very legitimate objectives for India. I don't think it can claim to be a world leader when it allows so many of its children and mothers to die of abject poverty," he said.