The Union Territory of Puducherry surpasses India’s performance on most health indicators. Its infant mortality rate is 16 per 1,000 live births same as Vietnam, while India’s average is 41 same as Ethiopia. Nearly 99.9 per cent of births take place in health institutions and 91.3per cent of children are immunised, as against the national average of 78.4 per cent institutional births and 62 per cent child immunisation.
Part of Puducherry’s success is due to its small population— its 1.24 million people give the state a population density of 2,598 people per sq km. By contrast, Delhi has 16.8 million people, or 11,297/sq km.
However, more credit goes to the fact that Puducherry’s administration has long prioritised healthcare by, among other steps, spending more per capita on health than other, richer states; setting up adequate numbers of medical colleges; and leaving no positions vacant in its health administration.
Greater spending is usually linked with better health outcomes — on average, all the Union Territories combined spend 2.03 per cent of GDP on health while the northeastern states spend 3.12 per cent, and most of them report good health indicators.
Puducherry’s success also is due to consistency. It has been investing in healthcare since 30-40 years, Sakhtivel Selvaraj, health economist from the non-profit Public Health Foundation of India, says. It has a better governance system overall, a more educated population that demands better services, as well as an efficient public distribution system.
As a result, it has served as a model for its larger neighbour, the state of Tamil Nadu, which has emulated Puducherry’s concepts of centralised drug procurement and a dedicated public health cadre, Selvaraj said.