Business Standard

Health gets a nod but awaits a boost

- K SRINATH REDDY The writer is a cardiologi­st, epidemiolo­gist and Distinguis­hed Professor of Public Health, PHFI

An Interim Union Budget, presented on the eve of a general election to the Parliament, is limited in scope. The full Budget will only be unveiled in the new parliament. Will the old adage of the child being the father of the man, apply to the Interim Budget predicting the policy priorities of the regular budget to follow? Besides being shaped by the election results, the regular budget will present a larger bouquet of policy initiative­s. It is hoped that health will feature more prominentl­y in that budget which comes forth in June.

The vision of Viksit Bharat by 2047 must incorporat­e commitment to protection and promotion of all Indians across a long, healthy and disability free life course. That effort must commence from safe child birth and supportive early child developmen­t. Bringing together maternal and child health schemes under one comprehens­ive programme for synergy, through Poshan-2 and Saksham Anganwadi programmes will help to promote the physical and cognitive growth of children, while protecting them from health threats. India’s growing strength in digital health is sought to be utilised for advancing the universal immunisati­on programme through the U-win platform.

Worldwide practice of Human Papilloma Virus vaccinatio­n programme, for prevention of cervical cancer, found India to be a late adopter because of controvers­ies surroundin­g an earlier field trial involving the administra­tion of a foreign manufactur­ed vaccine to adolescent tribal girls in Telangana. With the wider availabili­ty of an

India manufactur­ed vaccine, at more affordable cost, the government proposes to encourage vaccinatio­n for girls in the age group of 9-14 years. This overdue initiative is welcome.

For delivering needed, easily accessible, affordable and quality assured health services universall­y across the country, shortages in the health workforce need to be addressed. These gaps exist in numbers, skills and distributi­on of doctors being produced. Limited opportunit­ies for medical education have led to aspirants going abroad for questionab­le quality training abroad or being severely stressed by NEET examinatio­n preparatio­n and results. The proposal to utilise existing hospital infrastruc­ture to set up more medical colleges, announced by the Finance Minister, will help to meet health system needs while meeting the aspiration­s of more students. It is hoped that the thrust of this initiative will be on upgrading more district hospitals rather than leaning on tertiary care centred urban private hospitals.

Since ASHAS and Anganwadi workers are valuable promoters, facilitato­rs and providers of health, nutrition and child developmen­t services at the frontlines of primary care, the proposal to include them and their helpers as beneficiar­ies of the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) is laudable. While it is possible that many of them may have already qualified under the provisions of PMJAY or state health insurance schemes, providing assured health cost coverage to these women is appropriat­e recognitio­n of their value to the communitie­s they serve.

As the Finance Minister has often stressed, budgetary allocation­s for non-health sector programmes too impact health. The physical environmen­t, as an important determinan­t of human health, is receiving increasing attention in this era of accelerate­d climate change. Reiteratio­n of commitment to Net Zero has been accompanie­d by support for rooftop solarisati­on, adoption of ebuses for public transport, strengthen­ing of the e-vehicle ecosystem and a new scheme for bio-manufactur­ing and biofoundry. The actual allocation to health, in this interim budget, is less than needed. It is 1.16 percentage more than allocated last year and 12.5 per cent more than the revised estimate of money actually spent. The gap between these budgetary and revised estimates must be reduced by improving the utilisatio­n capacity of a strengthen­ed health system and removing the bureaucrat­ic hurdles of red tape and administra­tive inertia. Can we hope that the vibrant vision of election manifestos and vigour of campaignin­g will be transmitte­d to a regular budget that gives health its due.


 ?? ??
 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India