New Delhi: The Indian government will classify mental health illnesses as non-communicable diseases and set national targets to reduce such incidences in the 12th Five Year Plan for health. This is the first time such disorders will have national goals against their name.
In April, an Indian delegation led by health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had sought the inclusion of mental illnesses in the World Health Organization’s list of non-communicable disease at a ministerial conference in Moscow. Consequently, mental health as a non-communicable disease was adopted in the Moscow Declaration on 29 April.
India’s ministry of health estimates that as many as one out of four Indian families have at least one member diagnosed with some sort of mental illness and that at least 7% of the population is likely to suffer from “severe” mental illness.
Inclusion of mental health illnesses in non-communicable diseases is a significant change from previous policies where the disease did not see targeted policy intervention.
“The specific emphasis on mental health issues in the health plan is a step in the right direction,” said Manasi Sharma, researcher at Centre for Mental Health. “The government has set up a policy group which will draft India’s mental health policy. The Mental Health Act has also been redrafted to suit the current needs of mental health patients.”
The Planning Commission has also revised the national health targets for the five years ending 31 March 2017 as India is likely to miss key Millennium Development Goals in 2015.
The nation is likely to miss infant and maternal mortality goals of 27 per 1,000 live births and 109 per 100,000 live births, respectively at the current pace of decline.
The commission’s new target is to reduce infant mortality rate to 25 by 2017 but given the past rate of decline, India is projected to have an infant mortality rate of 38 by 2015 and 34 by March 2017.
Similarly, for maternal mortality rate, India’s new target is 100 by 2017, even though at the current rate the country is projected to reach 143 by 2015 and 127 by 2017.
At the start of the 11th Five Year Plan, India’s maternal mortality stood at 254 deaths per 100,000 live births. In the past five years, the government has managed to bring it down to 212.
In addition, the Planning Commission has advised the government to set up Maternal Death Review Committees to closely monitor progress.
The Planning Commission document states, “It has been decided to review every maternal death both at the health facility and in the community through the formation of Maternal Death Review Committees at district level and a task force at state level. The purpose of the review is to find gaps in the service delivery which leads to maternal deaths and take corrective action to improve the quality of service provision.”
The health ministry also aims to increase the child sex ratio, or the number of females per thousand males, in the 0-6 year age group to 950 from 914.
The Plan document states that the health ministry will devise “state-wise and national targets for each of these (non-communicable diseases) conditions as robust systems will be put in place to measure disease burden”.
Besides the new entry, the conditions included are tuberculosis, malaria, dengue, kala-azar.
Reduction of out of pocket expenses on health by poor households will also be factored in as an “outcome indicator” of health ministries policies during the 12th Plan. Stating that such expenses were a “regressive system of financing” health, the document states that the 12th Plan will aim to reduce out of pocket expenses as a proportion to private spending on health.