Palliative Care in India — Why is there an ignorance around the topic?
According to the WHO, around the world, about 40 million people are in dire need of assistance with their health like palliative care needs.
I recently worked on developing some content for a website called “callthepall”. A company that works on providing Palliative Care services in India. That’s when I realized the nescience about it in the general public.
A large sector of the Indian population is unaware of the existence of specialized post-treatment care like Palliative Care. And because of this oblivion around the matter, a lot of people, eligible for such care services do not avail them, hence risking a further health decline. The main facet of Palliative Care is to prevent such issues. About 5.4 million people in India are in need of such specialized care, and only about 1% have access to it.
A very important concept in Palliative Care is the composition of the care team. It is best administered by a versatile team comprising of doctors, nurses, specialists, social workers, and even volunteers. This means, a whole team, should set aside their differences, and cooperate with one another and act in the best interest of the patient.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), Palliative Care has been present in India for about 30 years now. The reason for the unawareness about it is due to multifold reasons.
· High population density
· Poverty that leads to the unaffordability of such services
· Lack of institutional interests (no active efforts by medical regulatory bodies)
· Lack of proper medical infrastructure
· Stigma around opioids and opioid addiction risks
Another major problem with people generally not availing Palliative Care is because of its non-recognition under health insurance schemes. Being a newer concept, there aren’t many organizations that provide them at lower costs, as it already costs high to provide specialized medical care that is customized for each patient.
Also, one of the biggest impediments to the rise in its popularity is the general stigma around taking pain-killer meds that help patients/recovering patients immensely after diagnosis. This false sense of danger with the use of drugs that contain opium has been instigated in a wrong sense, which has led to the creation of the NDPS (Narcotics Drugs & Psychotropic Substances) Act of 1985. It aims at limiting the misuse and diversion of narcotic substances. But, it has also led to the complication of licensing requirements for the procurement of certain drugs, which resulted in a 97% decrease in the use of Morphine in the medical sector in India.
As it slowly starts to get recognized, Palliative Care continues to grow in India. Slowly, but steadily. One thing that organizations can do, in this progress, is improve on communication that can help spread awareness and eliminate unnecessary fears instigated through propaganda. This would help ensure a safe option for people who are eligible for such care.