India has made
remarkable progress in healthcare; the nation is much healthier today.
Several diseases including polio, smallpox and guinea worm have been
eradicated successfully. Besides, there is a sharp reduction in IMR
(infant mortality rate), MMR (maternal mortality ratio), low mortality
due to TB and malaria and significant decrease in HIV infections and
Healthcare, one of the largest sectors, is growing at a brisk pace due
to its strengthening of coverage, services and increasing expenditure by
public and private players. Alongside, social trends and growing
urbanisation are leading to rapid spread of non-communicable diseases
such as heart ailment, diabetes and cancer. With the population ageing,
the elderly will account for nearly 11 percent of the citizenry in 2025.
Consequently, there is a demand for greater access to quality care. But
expensive treatment costs are making it difficult for uninsured citizens
to afford care.
To reduce health inequities and improve healthcare infrastructure, the
government recently launched the National Health Policy 2017. It aims at
achieving universal health coverage and delivering quality health care
to all at affordable cost. It intends to expand access to medical
facilities, make it affordable by reducing treatment costs and improve
quality. In a major departure from the past, the policy strongly
recognises the role of the private sector in expanding healthcare.
The policy will provide a comprehensive primary healthcare package which
includes major non-communicable diseases, mental health, geriatrics and
also palliative and rehabilitative care. Primary healthcare will get
two-thirds of resources. Public spend on health would be raised to 2.5
per cent of GDP by 2025 (up from about 1.15 per cent, currently). It
also addresses the challenges such as burden of diseases and
availability of human resource.
The policy considers major changes, in terms of disease profile and
epidemiology, which have taken place over the past 15 years. For the
first time, the policy has set specific targets for elimination of
certain diseases kala azar in 2017, leprosy by 2018 and the "very
ambitious" target of eliminating TB by 2025. The government also plans
to end indigenous transmission of malaria by 2030.
India’s Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP), Mission Indradhanush, is
one of the world’s largest drives in terms of number of beneficiaries
reached, quantity of vaccine used, number of immunisation sessions
organised, geographical spread and diversity of areas covered. Launched
in December 2014, it ensures that no child is left without the
protection of full immunization, particularly in hard-to-reach
Begun with six vaccines, the programme now protects children against 11
deadly diseases--with new vaccines against rotavirus diarrhoea,
Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) pneumonia and rubella being added in
the last few years. A new vaccine against pneumonia and meningitis, the
pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV), is being launched in May.
Since its launch, more than 2.14 crore children and around 0.56 million
pregnant women have been immunised, with routine immunisation coverage
increasing by 5-7 percent over two years, compared to an average of 1
percent during the past decade.
Several government interventions to reach and improve the quality of
care of women, newborns and young children, under the National Health
Mission (NHM), have led to a sharp 40.2 per cent rise in institutional
births in ten years.
These include the Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY), a direct cash transfer
scheme, Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakaram (JSSK), Pradhan Mantri
Surakshit Matritva Abhiyan, a programme that provides ante-natal
services. The JSSK entitles every woman delivering at a public health
institution to free and cashless health services. The NHM also lays
emphasis on a continuum of care for the newborn.
The government is launching the Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi
Pariyojana for cheaper medicines in hospitals. To provide health
security, it will soon bring in a legal framework under which doctors
will have to prescribe generic medicines, which are cheaper than
equivalent branded drugs.
As an initial measure, prices of 700 medicines have been capped to
enable poor people to get medicines at reasonable rates when they face
chronic diseases. Rules have been framed in such a way that medicines
which were available in the market at Rs 1,200 have been reduced to Rs.
70 to Rs. 80. The government has also capped the prices of stents used
in heart ailments.
The government has just launched the ‘Test and Treat Policy for HIV’
scheme under which anyone who is tested and found positive for HIV-AIDS
will be provided with ART(Antiretroviral Therapy) irrespective of one’s
CD count or clinical stage. This will improve longevity and quality of
life of those infected and will save them from many opportunistic
infections, especially TB.
India will soon develop a National Strategic Plan for HIV for next seven
years which will be crucial for ending AIDS.
To facilitate reduction in stigma and discrimination, the government
recently passed the HIV/AIDS Act--a historical step as very few
countries have such a law to protect rights of people infected with HIV.
Preventive healthcare has been accorded importance; people adopting it
may not have to visit hospitals. The cleanliness campaign (Swachchata
Abhiyan) is aimed at preventive healthcare as it has been proved that
many diseases are contracted if we live in an unclean environment.
Hygiene refers to conditions and practices that help maintain health and
prevent spread of diseases. Of the 1.7 million people worldwide who die
from unsafe water, sanitation, and hygiene each year, more than 600,000
are in India. India’s priority project Swachch Bharat has given a big
push to combat one of the biggest causes of death--poor hygiene.
To accelerate efforts to achieve universal sanitation coverage and to
put focus on sanitation, the government launched the Swachh Bharat
Mission on October 2, 2014. It aims to make urban India free from open
defecation by October 2019 and achieve 100 percent scientific management
of municipal solid waste in 4,041 statutory towns. The mission intends
to generate awareness about sanitation and its linkage with public