Wednesday, October 10, 2012

India Embarks on Universal Health Coverage

It is good news that India is embarking on an ambitious target of achieving Universal Health Coverage  (UHC) for all during 12th Plan period.
Everybody will be entitled for comprehensive health security in the country. It will be obligatory on the part of the State to provide adequate food, appropriate medical care, safe drinking water, proper sanitation, education and health-related information for good health.
The State will be responsible for ensuring and guaranteeing UHC for its citizens.
But how these targets will be met faced with the rampant corruption within the health delivery system is a question mark.

Addressing in a session of the conference on “Responsible Use of Medicine” at Amsterdam, Netherlands, on 3rd October, India's Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare, Ghulam Nabi Azad, quoting the WHO's World Health Statistics 2012, said that almost 60% of total health expenditure in India was paid by the common man from his own pocket in 2009.
The Report states that 39 million Indians are pushed to poverty because of ill health every year.
Around 30% in rural India did not go for any treatment due to financial constraints. About 47% and 31% of hospital admissions in rural and urban India were financed by loans and sale of assets.

Azad pointed out that India has already enacted the Clinical Establishment Act. The Standard Treatment Guideline is part of the Clinical Establishment Act.
The Act will ensure that unnecessary drugs are not prescribed. During nationwide polio vaccination campaign, India vaccinated 172 million children through 2.3 million vaccinators in 202 million households in each campaign.
The polio vaccination campaigns had a strategy of booth vaccination in earlier years but later the programme added the component of house to house search and vaccination to reduce missed children. Transit teams were deployed at all railway stations, bus stands, markets and highways to vaccinate populations in movement.
Special teams were set up to administer OPV drops to the most vulnerable mobile and migrant populations.
Introduction of bivalent oral polio vaccine (BOPV) in India, in January 2010, was based on country's innovative research. The bivalent polio vaccine helped India to achieve its goal of polio eradication.

Azad said the recommendations of the Consultative Expert Working Group (CEWG) set up by the WHO on research and coordination highlights the fact that very little research is happening in neglected diseases.
Intellectual Property Rights have become a barrier to access to medicines.
We need to consider the recommendations of the CEWG and ensure that adequate financing is made available to neglected diseases so that the poor and the vulnerable do not suffer from lack of proper medicines.