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Soc Sci Med. 1986 ; 22(1): 23-7.

Health care expenditures in a rural Indian community.

Parker RL.

Financing health services is an increasing concern that looms as one of the major obstacles to achieving an equitable distribution of primary health care in developing communities. An important step in solving this problem is the assessment of current levels of health care expenditures in these communities in order to determine the extent to which local resources are being used for these purposes. Ways to maximize the effectiveness of these resources can then be sought. Village level studies carried out between 1968 and 1974 in Punjab, India, revealed that at least 80% of all health care expenditures in this rural area were for services of traditional practitioners or private 'modern' doctors. This paper explores various aspects of these expenditures including the source of services and the effect of individual characteristics such as caste on the amount spent on health care. Out-of-pocket expenditures are contrasted to expenditures in the government system. Assessment of the impact of 'free' village level primary care services in this setting revealed that the poor reduced their expenditures on health care more than the wealthy, but both groups took almost equal advantage of the 'free' services. The results raise the possibility of mobilizing some of the savings accruing to the community to help support the 'free' services as well as the potential of encouraging private traditional and modern practitioners to cooperate in achieving primary health care goals.

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