Recently, JP Nadda, Union Minister for Health and Family Affairs, released the National Health Policy (NHP) 2017. Patting the back of the minister, Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the policy as a ‘futuristic' document which places the interests of the citizens foremost.
According to Nadda, NHP 2017, which is patient centric and quality-driven, provides the much-needed policy framework for achieving universal health coverage and delivering affordable quality healthcare services to all. The Union Health Minister said that under the guidance of the Prime Minister, the Health Ministry has formulated the policy after a gap of 15 years to address the current and emerging challenges necessitated by the changing socio-economic and epidemiological landscapes since the last National Health Policy was framed in 2002.
NHP was drafted by the government and placed in public domain on December 2014. Based on suggestions and feedback, the document was improved and endorsed by the Central Council for Health & Family Welfare in February 2016.
The launched policy has raised the bar and has set ambitious targets such as raising of public expenditure on healthcare to 2.5 per cent of GDP from the current level of about 1.5 per cent. It also entails introducing yoga much more widely in schools and workplaces. The policy also envisions increasing life expectancy to 70 years from 67.5 years and proposes free diagnostics and drugs at all public hospitals.
The policy will provide free medicines and "assured" health services to all and aims to reduce out of pocket health expenditure, said Nadda. He said the newly unveiled policy unlike the earlier one stresses on "preventive and promotive" healthcare and also has a "target-oriented" commitment for elimination of diseases for which an implementation framework has also been envisaged.
The policy envisages the creation of National Health Care Standards Organisation which will formulate guidelines and protocols for healthcare while there is a provision of establishing a separate empowered tribunal for speedy resolution of disputes and complaints, the minister said. Ashok Aggarwal, activist and advocate in the Delhi High Court, said that to attain the goal of universal healthcare, a separate law is needed to make public health a right. "Many patients do not get proper treatment, because it's often unaffordable for them. Private healthcare is expensive and public hospitals are over-burdened with little space and infrastructure left to facilitate treatment."
He said that drafting of a separate law for medical attention is the need of the hour as this law will equip the patients to get best medical treatment during the crunch situation, and until then the target of ‘universal private sector. The attainability of targets set by the policy will depend on the government's partnership with the private sector."