According to Health Ministry data analysis report, only 1-2% of the population who need palliative care have access to it in India compared to the global average of 14%. This report has been released by the health unit of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI).



Only 1-2% of the population who need palliative care have access to it in India compared to the global average of 14%, according to Health Ministry data analysis released by the health unit of FICCI.


What is ‘palliative care’?

  • The World Health Organisation defines palliative care as “an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life threatening illness”.
  • The Indian Association of Palliative Care modified the definition to include life-limiting conditions as well. Example — a paraplegic person who is in a life-limiting condition due to restricted movement, is susceptible to internal infections and therefore needs care, counselling and empathy.
  • Hence, palliative care is not only for end-of-life patients, but should be offered in conjunction with any medical treatment that a patient may be seeking, right from the time of diagnosis.


Key highlights of the report

  • Cancer incidence in India —
      • The report notes that the cancer incidence in India is now estimated to be 19 to 20 lakhs, whereas real incidence is 1.5 to 3 times higher than the reported cases.
      • Kerala, Mizoram, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Punjab, and Assam report the highest overall crude incidence rates of cancers which is greater than 130 cases per lakh population.
      • As per the report, Cancer disease burden in India continues to be characterised by poor detection. Late-stage detection coupled with sub-optimal access to quality cancer treatment at affordable prices significantly impacts the outcomes for this disease in the country.
  • Unaffordable Cancer treatment —
      • The financial burden for cancer treatment is highest compared to all diseases, making it unaffordable for over 80% of the population.
      • The cost of single hospitalisation for cancer care is three times that of any other non-communicable disease.
  • Despite rise in cancer incidence in India, no coherent policy towards palliative care —
      • The analysis shows that India stands at number three in terms of cancer incidence in the world.
      • Despite this, most States in the country do not even have enabling legislation or policy to integrate palliative care with treatment offered to cancer patients.
  • Only three Indian states have palliative policy — Currently only three States in India (Kerala, Karnataka and Maharashtra) have a palliative care policy.
  • Suggestions —
      • The need of the hour then is training auxiliary nurses and Asha workers to provide counselling to cancer patients.
      • Also, government needs to undertake efforts to include palliative care packages under reimbursement schemes of government as well as private insurance plans.


What the government is doing in this regard?

  • A population-based initiative for prevention, control, and screening for diabetes, hypertension, and common cancers has been rolled out in the country under National Health Mission (NHM).
  • Screening of these common cancers is an integral part of service delivery under Ayushman Bharat – Health and Wellness Centres.
  • Treatment for Cancer is also available under Ayushman Bharat – Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY).
  • Besides, quality generic medicines are made available at affordable prices to all, under Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP).
  • Affordable Medicines and Reliable Implants for Treatment (AMRIT) Pharmacy stores have been set up in some hospitals/institutions, with an objective to make available Cancer drugs at a substantial discount vis-à-vis the Maximum Retail Price.
  • Under the umbrella scheme of Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi (RAN), financial assistance is provided to families living below the threshold poverty line for their treatment, including treatment of Cancer in Government hospitals.