Unhealthy policy

A new policy fails to address key problems of healthcare

Published: Sunday 30 September 2001

after a gap of 18 years the Union government has formulated a draft national health policy 2001, which fails to address the key issues of the national healthcare scenario. While the policy mentions several problems and inadequacies of the healthcare system, it hardly suggests any solutions.

"Identifying problems is fine, but what is required is how to tackle them," says Rama Baru, associate professor of public health at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. For example, the policy states that investments are falling short, but it fails to mention the sources from where the funds can be channelised.

The health policy of 1983 had admitted the government's inability to undertake the mammoth task of fulfilling healthcare needs of the nation. It had propagated participation of the private sector. But no decisions were taken. Eighteen years down the line, the situation remains the same. Though primary healthcare has been given importance, no attempt has been made to link it with secondary and tertiary levels.

Another issue which has been ignored pertains to the high drug prices in the patent regime. "Poor people suffer the most because of the high prices. But the policy fails to solve their problem," says Mira Shiva of the Voluntary Health Association of India, a Delhi-based non-governmental organisation. Most experts opine that the policy would widen the gap between the rich and the poor, with health services remaining inaccessible to the underprivileged sections of the society -- the ones who need them the most.

"The policy fails to address the problems of vulnerable sections of the society like women," says Shiva. No mention has been made about the standards to be followed while conducting clinical trials, she adds. Many of its provisions are vague, including the one related to educating the rural community about healthcare.

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