Major Health Problems in India

Major Health Problems in India and National Rural Health Mission (NRHM)

India is one of the largest and most populous countries in the world, with a population of over 1.3 billion people. Despite its significant economic growth in recent years, India still faces numerous health challenges that are affecting the well-being of its citizens. Some of these health problems are long-standing issues, while others are emerging challenges that require urgent attention.

6 Major Health Problems in India

In this article, we will explore the 6 major health problems in India, their causes, and potential solutions.

  1. Non-Communicable Diseases: Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are a major health challenge in India, accounting for more than 60% of all deaths in the country. The most common NCDs in India are cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, and chronic respiratory diseases. These diseases are caused by factors such as unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, tobacco use, and the harmful use of alcohol. The Indian government has taken several measures to address the issue of NCDs, including launching a National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases, and Stroke. The program aims to promote healthy lifestyles, prevent and control NCDs, and provide affordable and accessible treatment to patients.
  2. Infectious Diseases: Infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, and dengue fever are still prevalent in India and pose a significant health challenge. India accounts for more than a quarter of the global burden of tuberculosis, with an estimated 2.8 million cases reported every year. Malaria is also a significant problem in India, with an estimated 85% of the population at risk of the disease. The Indian government has implemented many measures to control and prevent the spread of infectious diseases. The government has launched a National Tuberculosis Control Programme to increase awareness about the disease and provide access to treatment. The government has also implemented measures to control the spread of malaria, including the use of insecticide-treated bed nets, indoor residual spraying, and early diagnosis and treatment of the disease.
  3. Maternal and Child Health: Maternal and child health is a significant health challenge in India, with high maternal and infant mortality rates. India has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, with an estimated 44,000 maternal deaths reported every year. Infant mortality rates are also high, with an estimated 28 deaths per 1,000 live births. The Indian government has taken several measures to improve maternal and child health, including the launch of the National Health Mission (NHM) in 2013. The NHM aims to provide accessible, affordable, and quality healthcare services to pregnant women and children under five years of age. The government has also launched numerous programs to improve maternal and child nutrition and promote breastfeeding.
  4. Mental Health: Mental health is an emerging health challenge in India, with a significant burden of mental health disorders. Depression is the most common mental health disorder in India, affecting around 5% of the population. Other common mental health disorders in India include anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. The Indian government has launched many initiatives to address the issue of mental health. The government has launched the National Mental Health Programme, which aims to provide affordable and accessible mental health services to the population. The government has also launched campaigns to raise awareness about mental health and reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.
  5. Environmental Health: Environmental health is another emerging health challenge in India, with pollution being a significant problem in many parts of the country. Air pollution, water pollution, and industrial pollution are major environmental health challenges in India. Air pollution in India is a major concern, with several cities ranking among the most polluted in the world. Exposure to air pollution can cause a range of health problems, including respiratory diseases, heart disease, and stroke. Water pollution is also a significant health challenge in India, with many rivers and lakes contaminated with industrial waste and sewage. Exposure to contaminated water can cause a range of health problems, including diarrhoea, hepatitis, and typhoid. The Indian government has implemented various measures to address the issue of environmental health. The government has launched the National Air Quality Index, which provides real-time data on air quality in major cities. The government has also implemented measures to control industrial pollution, including setting emissions standards for industries and promoting cleaner production methods. The government has also launched campaigns to promote clean cooking fuels and reduce indoor air pollution.
  6. Malnutrition: Malnutrition is a significant health challenge in India, with a high prevalence of undernourishment and micronutrient deficiencies. According to the National Family Health Survey, 38.4% of children under five years of age in India are stunted, and 21% are wasted. Micronutrient deficiencies are also prevalent, with an estimated 30-40% of the population suffering from anaemia. The Indian government has launched several initiatives to address the issue of malnutrition. The government has implemented the National Nutrition Mission, which aims to improve the nutritional status of women and children through a range of interventions, including promoting breastfeeding, improving infant and young child feeding practices, and providing micronutrient supplements.

Health Problems in Rural Areas in India

Rural India is still highly affected by the age-old problems of TB, malaria and diarrhoea on one hand, and facing new challenges posed by environmental pollution mainly due to contamination of air by automobiles and industries, and water by agrochemicals on the other. Rural communities in India suffer from a significant lack of access to healthcare. This lack of access results in high rates of maternal mortality, infant mortality, and malnutrition, as well as low life expectancy and low vaccination rates.

Rural India, home to 65% of the population, is ravaged and devastated by COVID-19 like no other region. Rural Health care is one of the biggest challenges facing the Health Ministry of India. With more than 70 per cent population living in rural areas and low levels of health facilities, mortality rates due to diseases are high.

What is being done to improve healthcare in rural areas?

To address the healthcare challenges, particularly in rural areas, the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) was launched in 2005 to supplement the efforts of the State/UT governments to provide accessible, affordable and quality healthcare to all those who access public health facilities. The healthcare infrastructure in rural areas has been developed as a three-tier system. Leading global organizations in the healthcare industry are using mobile technology to enhance the quality of care and bridge the gaps in healthcare services in rural India. 

What is the current state of healthcare in urban areas?

The private healthcare segment in India is mainly focused on urban centres. In India, 75% of the healthcare infrastructure is concentrated in urban areas where only 27% of the total Indian population is living. The healthcare infrastructure in urban areas consists of Community Health Centres and Primary Health Centres. The extent to which India's health system can provide for this large and growing city-based population will determine the country's success in achieving universal health coverage and improved national health indices.

Community Health Problems in India

According to a report, 42% of India’s children below the age of three were malnourished. Water supply and sanitation continue to be a challenge, only one of the three Indians has access to improved sanitation facilities such as a toilet. India’s HIV/AIDS epidemic is a growing threat. Cholera epidemics are not unknown. Lack of awareness is one of the most significant health issues that Indians face.

Problems of the Health Sector in India

India has been struggling with deficient infrastructure in the form of a lack of well-equipped medical institutes. One of the most pressing problems in India remains a severe shortage of efficient and trained manpower. The country faces a double burden of disease and an ageing population. The top three causes of death in 2019 were ischaemic heart disease, COPD and stroke. High out-of-pocket expenditure remains a stress factor.

Initiatives of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM)

The National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) was launched by the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh in New Delhi on 12th April 2005. The mission seeks to provide equitable, affordable, and quality health care to the rural population, especially vulnerable groups. NRHM holds several awareness drives, sensitisation programmes, campaigns and capacity-building efforts to mobilise effort at the community level. Accredited Social Health Activists or ASHAs are appointed to integrate service delivery with community efforts.


India is facing numerous health challenges that are affecting the well-being of its citizens. The major health problems in India include non-communicable diseases, infectious diseases, maternal and child health, mental health, environmental health, and malnutrition. These health challenges are caused by a range of factors, including unhealthy lifestyles, environmental pollution, and inadequate access to healthcare services.

The Indian government has implemented many measures to address these health challenges, including launching national health programs, promoting healthy lifestyles, and providing affordable and accessible healthcare services to the population. However, more needs to be done to address these health challenges and ensure the well-being of all citizens.

Efforts should be made to increase awareness about these health challenges, promote healthy lifestyles, and improve access to healthcare services, particularly in remote and rural areas. The government should also focus on addressing the root causes of these health challenges, including environmental pollution, inadequate sanitation, and poverty.

By working together, we can address these health challenges and create a healthier and more prosperous India for all citizens.


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Manisha Singh

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