What prime minister needs to do to make good his promise on making 12th Five-Year Plan a health plan
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has declared the 12th Five-Year Plan of India as a health plan. The commitment made by the highest executive of the country is a welcome indication, but to accomplish it India needs to create a more comprehensive and epidemiologically evolved blueprint for universal, unconstrained access to basic, quality healthcare and simultaneously deal with the social determinants of health for the entire population.
The immediate step in this direction ought to be strengthening of the public health system and improving their accessibility which can be possible only if public spending on healthcare is increased significantly. Currently, public spending in health is around 1.2 per cent of India’s GDP which is one of the lowest in the world. WHO suggests that a country should spend at least 5 per cent of its GDP to provide reasonable level of healthcare to its citizens. Although, India’s total spending on health is about 4.8 per cent, most of it is private which essentially is out of pocket. This exorbitant out of pocket spending has been the cause of increasing rural indebtedness, families falling below poverty line and patients not seeking treatment.
Narendra Gupta is a community health physician who has worked extensively on the rights of tribal and other marginalised communities of Rajasthan. He is currently campaigning for free treatment to all and working with Prayas at Chittorgarh and Centre for Health Equity in Jaipur
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