This case explores how Kerala, India developed a reputation for exemplary health outcomes despite low per capita income. After providing historical background, including the social, political, and health system factors that contributed to a culture of seeking health care, the case describes Kerala’s health system and outcomes. The case describes how the fiscal decline in the latter half of the 20th century led to decreased spending on public services, including health, creating an opening for private-sector providers to meet a growing share of the demand for health services and the impact on out-of-pocket health spending. Readers must think about how emerging health threats such as noncommunicable diseases should be addressed in the 21st century, including the health department’s response and a new initiative to increase capacity in the public health sector, including efforts to improve the quality and reliability of health data through an electronic medical record system. The case concludes with Additional Chief Secretary for Health and Family Welfare Rajeev Sadanandan wondering if the new strategy will succeed and if Kerala can maintain its status as a positive outlier in health for the decades to come.
Teaching Note available for registered faculty through Harvard Business Publishing and the Case Centre.
Learning Objectives: to appreciate the relationships between education, literacy, and health; what the components of a health system are; the limitations of health indicators as measures of a national health system’s effectiveness; and, the challenges of sustaining demand and maintaining the supply and quality of public health services over time.
Key words: health care policy, universal health care, demand generation, health care delivery, health system, health outcomes, social determinants of health