A very happy new year to all our readers! HII is proud to covering critical health stories in India as they emerge and keep you updated for another year.
Last year, India witnessed the thrill of achieving a polio-free status by the World Health Organization and also in complete contrast, the outrage of tragic sterilisation deaths in Chhattisgarh . What will 2015 bring for health in India?
Without a substantial rise in funding for the health sector, can India revive its ailing health system? 2014 saw many innovations in health service design and delivery such as use of mobile phones and the swasthya slate to deliver health services in rural areas and many advances in diagnostics and medical technologies. But will these be enough on their own to help India reach its MDG goals? We read last year about the possible renaming of the National Health Mission to National Health Assurance Mission (NHAM).The features of NHAM are likely to be unveiled early in this year, after a review by the Prime Minister and to include some kind of plan for universal health coverage.
Last month, the government in its new draft policy on national health said that it would consider making health care a fundamental right and ensure that its denial is punishable by law. 2015 will have greater expectations of health promotion and disease prevention, provision of essential drugs and basic diagnostic tests in public health care facilities and provision of better primary, secondary and emergency services both in urban and rural areas.How these will be supported when the government appears to have slashed its health budget by a fifth, remains to be seen. This may have been done because according to sources, the administration is finding it hard to contain its rising fiscal deficit. India spends just 1.3 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on public health care, and even including expenditure on private health care, the figure stands at 4.3 percent. Comparative data show that in terms of health care expenditure as a percentage of GDP, India significantly lags behind Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa, countries that are typically lumped together in the so-called BRICS bloc.
Hopes were high that when Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was elected last year, he would upgrade basic health infrastructure and make medical services more affordable for the poor.Two health ministry officials told Reuters in an article that more than 6000 crore rupees, or $948 million, has been slashed from their budget allocation of around 31,640 crores ($1 = Rs 63.28) or $5 billion for the financial year ending on March 31.India’s private healthcare industry is growing at an annual clip of around 15 percent, but public spending has remained low and resulted in a extremely poor network of government hospitals and clinics, especially in rural areas. One of the health ministry officials said the cut could crimp efforts to control the spread of diseases. More newborns die in India and preventable illnesses such as diarrhoea kill more than a million children every year.India had the third-largest number of people living with HIV in the world at the end of 2013, according to the UN AIDS programme, and it accounts for more than half of all AIDS-related deaths in the Asia-Pacific.