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National Health Policy 2017: Building a Healthy India

21 Mar 2017

The much-awaited national health policy that was approved by the central government on 15th March 2017 is a significant step towards ensuring universal health access and services to the citizens, residing both in rural and urban areas. It is country’s largest public health initiative that brings together a vision of a healthy India as well as the dedication to implementing this vision through concrete policy decisions.

Prime Minister Modi’s keenness to introduce a national health policy has paid rich dividends. The efforts to make a new health policy for the country started since the Modi government came into power in May 2014. In December 2014, the government placed a Draft National Health Policy in the public domain. The national health policy has remained unchanged for the past 15 years as it was last revised by the government led by Shri. Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2002. Hence, this time, the national health policy has been introduced with the sole purpose of addressing the inequalities and tackling the emerging challenges in India’s health sector.

The government adopted a highly participative and consultative approach while formulating India’s health policy. Hence, the state government and other stakeholders were made a part of the process of fine-tuning the draft. The government also received more than 5000 suggestions from various quarters for improving the national health policy draft.

The Union government’s citizen-centric approach has been the cornerstone of the new national health Policy that was also endorsed by the Central Council for Health & Family Welfare.

Highpoints of the National Health Policy 2017:

• Government Expenditure on Health Hiked:

The most crucial development is the proposed hike in the health expenditure. Currently, the government spending on health is 1.5 percent of the GDP. This would be gradually increased to 2.5 percent of the GDP in a time-bound manner.

• Focus on Higher Life Expectancy:

The vision is to increase the life expectancy at birth from 67.5 years to 70 years by 2025. The health policy also aims to reduce the high infant mortality rate and maternal mortality rate prevalent in the country.

• Free Medicines:

The policy also proposes free diagnostics, drugs and emergency services at all public hospitals.

• Setting up of a National Health Care Standards Organisation (NHCSO):

The policy specifies the prominence of setting up of NHCSO which would formulate rules, guidelines and protocols for healthcare in India.

• Family Health Card:

The policy proposes to make family health cards that would be digitally linked to the public health care facility thereby enabling the citizens to access their medical history online.

• Renewed focus on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs)

For several years, India’s health system focussed on communicable diseases. This had to change because more than 60 percent of deaths in India are occurring due to NCDs and caused high expenditures to the patient and family. This had to be tackled on an urgent basis that led to a renewed focus on NCDs and its prevention. For this, the government has emphasised on early screening for most prevalent NCDs that would have a positive impact in reducing preventable mortality.

• Public-Private Partnership (PPP):

This policy visualises to build a strong partnership between the government and the private organisations which would strengthen the overall functioning and efficiency of the health system.

• Regular monitoring of health institutions:

The policy prioritises regular monitoring of all the health institutions, both public and private. This would ensure that the grading, facilities provided and quality levels of these institutions would be under regular check. Apart from making the health system more efficient, it would also promote Make in India by reforming the existing manufacturing system of drugs and medical devices.

• Increased focus on alternative medicines and overall wellness:

The policy visualises the integration of AYUSH systems across systems of medicines. Apart from being safe and cost-effective, this would help in effective disease prevention. To promote healthy living, yoga is to be introduced in schools and workplaces.

The priority of the government is to ensure universal access, high quality and low-cost healthcare facilities to all. The national health policy is a milestone in providing health security for all in India. The focus has shifted from sick-care to wellness, and the thrust is on prevention and health promotion.

The government has successfully introduced a comprehensive health policy with clear deliverables and milestones. All this would benefit the citizens immensely in leading better healthy lives.


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