‘Progress in health sector is key to India’s future prominence in the world’: Mukherjee

Chandigarh, Mar 15: Asserting that a nation’s productivity depends on the health and well-being of its citizens, President Pranab Mukherjee on Friday said

progress in the health sector is key to India’s future prominence in the world.

President Mukherjee, who attended the 33rd annual convocation of Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) at Chandigarh, speaking on the occasion said ‘economic growth that does not go hand in hand with reduction in avoidable mortality and ill health is neither sustainable nor desirable’.

President Mukherjee said ‘provision of universal health care is therefore a matter of faith for the government’.

“For this, the public health system must be greatly expanded and strengthened across the nation. We need many more nurses, doctors, paramedics and health workers. We need to decentralize planning and implementation of healthcare to the district and sub-district levels. We need to take health services closer to the homes of the families-even a primary health centre is too far by today’s standard and need,” President Mukherjee said.

“We need out of the box managerial and administrative reforms in the health departments at the state and central level. We need public health professionals to spearhead public health programs. We need to develop effective models of healthcare for the ever-increasing urban population. India’s national health system must be a strong, sensitive and efficient public health system,” he added.

The President said ‘good health of its people is the very foundation of a nation’.

“A person who is not healthy is unable to access opportunities for learning, growth and productive work. In India, a number of rights are guaranteed to its citizens but none of these can be utilized or enforced by persons who are sick, enfeebled and spend their entire energy on treatment and medical care,” said President Mukherjee.

“At the national level, according to a WHO study, the estimated economic loss for India due to deaths caused by all the diseases in 2005 was 1.3 percent of its GDP. With an increase in the number of non-communicable diseases, this loss is apprehended to increase to 5 percent of GDP by 2015 if it is not checked,” said President Mukherjee.

“Our medical healthcare system has to be developed to cater to medical requirements of all sections of society, both in rural and urban areas. A good healthcare system would need to be country-specific, and therefore, India would need to look at achieving universal health coverage based on its own perspective and requirements, while bearing in mind the lessons that can be drawn from the experiences of others,” he added.

President Mukherjee further said medicines account for 72 percent of private expenditure of health.

“India has taken a major decision on distribution of free generic drugs to patients seeking healthcare in public facilities. This will bring down out-of-pocket expenditure and provide affordable access to medicine, particularly for the poor and disadvantaged. Implementing this requires funds as also efficient management systems,” said President Mukherjee.

“In today’s era, technology-based initiatives including telemedicine can be employed to broaden the reach of healthcare,” he added.

Stating that it will be incorrect if we were to look at health coverage only in terms of curative and interventionist approach, President Mukherjee said: “Preventive healthcare is equally important particularly in India where the number of those suffering from diabetes and cardio-vascular diseases is on the rise. Our health system, therefore, will need to treat people and, at the same time, advise and guide them about how to deal with and prevent some of these medical conditions.”

“Hygiene and sanitation are basic for preventing diseases. In these efforts, participation at the local level particularly at the village level through Panchayati Raj Institutions can ensure effective implementation,” he added.

President Mukherjee said the transformation of India’s health system to be able to provide universal health coverage is a process that will span a period of time.

“A major re-engineering process began with National Rural Health Mission, launched in 2005. It sought to extend healthcare services to every village in the country and to strengthen healthcare infrastructure through sub-centres, primary health centres and community health centres. The aim now is to extend the coverage to urban areas also,” said President Mukherjee.

“There should be necessary standards of care observed at every level of healthcare. A network of healthcare centres has to be established. This can be sustained only with adequate number of doctors and other paramedical supporting staff. Merely constructing hospitals is not enough. It needs the human resources to make them functional and effective,” he added. (ANI)