Budget brass tacks: A look at public health

Budget brass tacks: A look at public health

New Delhi: With constant pressure on government’s health care system, a lot is expected out of the forthcoming Union budget. The Indian government currently spends less than 1% of its GDP on health, though the budget may have more allocations for the sector. The budget is also expected to outline initiatives on public health that will be implemented over next five years. The government is planning to double or even triple its current health care budgetary allocations by 2012.

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The government’s flagship programme, the National Rural Health Mission or the NRHM, was launched in 2005. The NRHM has trained female link workers called ASHAs or Accredited Social Health Activists who guide rural Indians to health care centers for treatment. Around six lakh link workers currently work in rural areas under the scheme.

The government is also expected to launch a National Urban Health Mission or NHUM, that is slated to cost about Rs6,000 crore over several years. The scheme is targeted at the urban poor and slum dwellers.

Another initiative the government is working on is called the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana, which involves building six more hospitals like the All India Institute of Medical Sciences or AIIMS. Three of these hospitals are likely to be operational in next two to three years.

Another key issue on which the budget is likely to focus is immunization. Only 53% of children in the country are fully immunized. To speed up the process the government is working on creating a five-in-one vaccine injection.

But what is clear is that a lot needs to be done for health care in India. For example the nurse-to-patient ratio: One nurse attends over 750 persons as opposed to global average of 250.