"Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is a high priority in India. We are particularly worried about families who fall below the poverty line, when someone falls ill and the family has to struggle to pay for health care," Lise Grande, United Nations Resident Coordinator, said at a UN-backed discussion which deliberated on India's route to UHC.
Nata Menabde, WHO Representative to India, highlighted the importance of substantially increasing the government expenditure on health in India which is one of the lowest in the world, at around one percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
She commended the policy intent outlined by the Planning Commission to increase government spending on health to 1.87 percent of the GDP by 2017.
Outlining that no country has fully "achieved" UHC in a short period as there is always some gap between the need and utilisation and there is also scope for improvement of quality and financial protection, Menabde said, "Universal Health Coverage should be conceptualised as a direction rather than a destination, an idea that is relevant for India."
Speaking on the occasion, Indrani Gupta, of the Institute of Economic Growth said, the disease burden, infrastructural and personnel requirements and health financing situation are the three elements that need to be analysed to plan the design of the UHC model to be rolled out in India.
"The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has already suggested a list of indicators for an essential health package which need to be taken into consideration.
"The roll-out process has to be accompanied by a solid management information system and monitoring and evaluation framework from the start to help in course correction based on
evaluations," she said.
The discussion with WHO experts from different regions was moderated by Dr Antonio Duran, Advisor, WHO Country Office for India.