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The Gorakhpur tragedy has highlighted the abysmal state of India’s healthcare system and focused attention on the country’s low public health spending. More than a century ago, even the advanced countries of the world spent very little on public health. Investments in public health went up in the West after the First World War, shows a new study by Our World in Data, University of Oxford. The discovery that germs caused diseases spurred the sanitation and public health movement, which helped bring down child mortality rates sharply in the West, the Nobel-winning economist Angus Deaton has shown in his work.

Although child mortality rates have been declining in India as well, they are higher than that of several other developing countries, some of which are poorer than India. Most of these countries spend more on public health than India does. Unless the health sector garners more attention and resources in India, many more Gorakhpurs lie ahead of us.

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