No Right To Health In New Policy. But It Tries To Make Indians Live Longer

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No Right To Health In New Policy. But It Tries To Make Indians Live Longer

Health Minister JP Nadda today announced the National Health Policy in Parliament.


NEW DELHI:  The Narendra Modi government's new National Health Policy announced on Thursday pledges to more than double public spending on health so that people live longer, give the poor free access to medicines and diagnostics in state-run hospitals and set targets for control of diseases such as tuberculosis that kills over 5,000 people every day.

But the policy, announced in Parliament by Union Health Minister JP Nadda, stops short of introducing the concept of a right to health etched in law, a proposal on the lines of a similar right to education that was debated for two years in the government before dropping it.

"We don't want it to be a right where we can't implement. States also wanted not to over-commit," Mr Nadda told reporters after releasing the document, which pledges to eradicate leprosy by 2017, tuberculosis by 2025, focus on early screening to prevent diseases and raise life expectancy from 67.5 years to 70 by 2025.

Dr Srinath Reddy, who heads the Public Health Foundation of India, said he would have preferred if the policy had backed the right to health but the government could move in the right direction if it really implements the promise to make drugs and diagnostics free in public hospitals.

"We have a horrendous level of out-of-pocket expenditure (on healthcare)... 63 million Indians go into poverty because of unaffordable healthcare costs," Dr Reddy told NDTV.

The government targets raising public health expenditure from 1 per cent of the national Gross Domestic Product to 2.5 per cent by 2025. It is still less than the 6 per cent figure that the World Health Organisation says is needed for countries to provide universal coverage of health for all citizens.

The Health Minister said money was not the only problem; the public health infrastructure at the states had to have the capacity utilise the available funds too.

The government also targets bringing down under-five mortality to 23 by 2025, infant mortality for 28 by 2019, neo-natal mortality to 16 and the still birth rate to "single digit" by 2025.

The government also hopes to fix the regulatory system for manufacturers of drugs and medical devices as well as the medical education sector.

Congress lawmaker Oscar Fernandes welcomed the policy. "This is a welcome change to prevention and cure but we have to see the implementation," he said


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