The urgent need to strengthen the Indian public health care system

The threats to the public health from ramped air pollution and emission of greenhouse gases is no secret to anyone. Even though the pandemic and the resulted lockdown has considerably brought down pollution levels across the world, we cannot ignore the fact the air pollution single-handedly contributes to several chronic diseases and pre-mature deaths, around the world.

Studies indicate that air pollution alone leads to around 9 million premature deaths per year globally. A possible connection might be established between regions that suffer from a very high rate of air pollution like China, Europe, New York, Delhi and Mumbai, and their vulnerability to register a higher morbidity and mobility rate for Covid-19. Even though several other factors contribute to Covid-19 death rates, excessive air pollution could be one of the contributing factors.

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Air pollutants such as particulate matter especially PM2.5 is known to cause a variety of respiratory disorders that could turn out to be fatal when there is prolonged exposure to the pollutant. Cities and countries suffering from very high pollution could witness a significantly higher death rate for Covid-19 as well.

Alongside, emission of greenhouse gases like carbon-di-oxide, and methane contribute to global warming. Studies have already established that global warming is directly responsible for intensifying extreme weather events and natural disasters such as cyclones, heatwaves, floods etc.

Uncontrolled air pollution and emission of greenhouse gases, accompanied by the weak health care system, especially in the public sector are the two biggest threats to public health in the coming years. Hence, the government should make the use of the opportunity during the lockdown to rebuild a new economy and envision a reformed industrial model that can effectively tackle air pollution and the emission of greenhouse gases.

The pandemic and the lockdown is the opportunity for the government to transform the way public transportation operates and to promote large scale adoption of electric vehicles in the country. Along with this, if the government increase their health care spending and provides for universal healthcare facilities, a strong public health care system can be made which should keep us prepared for the next emerging health care crisis.

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