Oxfam report highlights sharp inequalities in health indicators

General category is better off than the SCs and STs, it says

Sharp inequalities exist across different caste, religious, class and gender categories on various health indicators, according to a report by Oxfam India.

The report titled “India Inequality Report 2021: India’s Unequal Healthcare Story” shows that the “general category is better off than the SCs and STs, Hindus are better off than Muslims, the rich are better off than the poor, men are better off than women, and the urban population is better off than the rural population” on most health determinants, interventions and indicators. The findings are primarily based on secondary analysis from rounds 3 and 4 of the National Family Health Survey and various rounds of National Sample Survey.

The report shows that while women’s literacy has improved across social groups over the years, SC and ST women lag behind the general category by 18.6% and 27.9%, respectively. There exists a gap of 55.1% between the top and bottom 20% of the population in 2015-16. Though the female literacy rate among Muslims (64.3%) is lower than all religious groups, inequality has reduced over time.

As far as sanitation is concerned, 65.7% households have access to improved, non-shared sanitation facilities in the general category while SC households are 28.5% behind them and ST are 39.8% behind them. While 93.4% of households in the top 20% have access to improved sanitation, only 6% have access in the bottom 20 % — a difference of 87.4%.

An examination of health interventions too shows disparities.

The share of institutional deliveries in India has increased from 38.7% in 2005-06 to 78.9% in 2015-16, but inequalities persist with ST households 15% below the general category, Muslims 12% behind Hindus and a 35% gap between the poorest and richest 20% of the population.

Similarly, immunisation in ST households at 55.8% is still 6.2% below the national average, and Muslims have the lowest rate across all socio-religious groups at 55.4%.

Life expectancy based on wealth is 65.1 years for the bottom 20% of the households, while it is 72.7 years for the top 20%. Similarly, on an average, an upper caste woman lives 15 years longer than a Dalit woman.

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