The need for universal health coverage has never been greater. Today, India’s healthcare system is grappling with dual burden of accessibility and affordability.
It is important for the government to not only implement universal health coverage for emergency medical care but also ensure ‘health assurance’ by providing coverage for treatment of chronic and non-communicable diseases as well. The inclusion of India’s mother system of medicine, Ayurveda under the ambit of universal health coverage will contribute to this goal substantially since Ayurveda would approach health holistically- diet, lifestyle, medicine, therapies. Access to Ayurveda care under government universal health programmes should be not restricted to government set-up but also opened up to credible Ayurveda hospitals in the private sector.
Ayurveda can play a major preventive, curative, and promotive role in community health- and in women and child health, in particular. Ayurveda can be very effective in the management of serious communicable diseases such as chikungunya and dengue, etc. as well. Government should ensure that essential Ayurveda drugs be made available to the masses as prophylaxis and Ayurveda chikitsa (medical management) for confirmed cases towards cure and tertiary prevention.
It is a known fact that the number of doctors trained in the Ayurveda medical system are more than the number of doctors trained in allopathy medical system in India. There is a need to channelise this resource in a constructive manner. Instead of allowing BAMS doctors to practice allopathy we should give them support and a better enabling framework to practice authentic Ayurveda. Ayurveda is well positioned to be a strong complementary partner to modern medicine in serving India’s health needs. Government should articulate a clear vision and policies for HRD of Ayurveda doctors and nurses. This is required to attract the best talent to this sector.
The government should systematically invest in and promote research of efficacy and safety of Ayurveda products and services and declare evidence building for Ayurveda medical care a national health priority. The Indian Armed forces should include Ayurveda in their medical coverage for serving and retired personnel and their families. Finally, Ayurveda should be mandated to be covered in the scope of coverage of medical insurance policies in the country, with attendant terms and conditions that are fair and beneficial to all stakeholders- the patient, insurance company, and the Ayurveda sector.
With the above changes, I am optimistic that in the next five years we will see dramatic growth in demand for and supply of Ayurveda products and services enabling Ayurveda to take its rightful position as a mainstream system of medicine in India.