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Nov 9, 2014

Do any of our political party care about the health needs?

While healthcare is a major political issue in the western world, they debate endlessly about the subsidy, quality, inclusion of doctors , Insurance expenses, Health budget  in our country India its seldom finds just passing mention in the election manifestos of various political parties. Health has failed to pick up as an election issue in India despite the country having overwhelming concerns over the quality of its health care delivery systems.
While one party sources said that its manifesto would promise universal healthcare and free medicine for the poor, the second party spokesperson refused to commit anything about what the party promises to do on the health front. ‘Obviously health is one of the major issues on which the manifesto will speak,’ . Last year’s economic survey pointed out that India has the lowest health spend – 4.1 percent – as a proportion of its GDP. Despite this, 70 percent of the population spends from its own pocket.  Helath insurance penetration is meager. Even the private plus government spending is abysmally low compared to other nations. While the United States spends around 15.2 percent of its GDP on health, France spends 11.2 percent and Britain 8.4 percent. Countries like Brazil and South Africa spend around nine percent. Stakeholders in the health sector and international agencies say that it is time health found a place in the political discourse of the world’s largest democracy. Read Ex-health secretary Keshav Desiraju’s transfer – is it justified?

‘India needs to spend more on health,’ Seth Berkley, CEO Gavi Alliance, a global health partnership in the field of immunization, told . ‘We need more political discourse on health care in India’, he added. According to Genevieve Begkoyian, Chief of Health, Unicef India, the country has the requisite knowledge and skilled human resources to prevent maternal and child mortality and deaths due to diseases which can be prevented by routine immunization.
‘Nearly 1.4 million children die each year before their fifth birthday. Unfortunately a majority of these deaths are preventable and low cost interventions to avert these deaths are available but fail to reach those who need them the most,’ she said.
‘Saving these 1.4 million children that are dying of preventable causes should be the top priority of any political party in India. Saving the 56,000 mothers who die while delivering a baby should equally be topmost on the agenda of all political parties,’ the Unicef official told . ‘The need is to convert policies into action, especially for the most vulnerable and invisible children and women,’ she added.
Universal healthcare, clean drinking water and free drugs are some of the issues which are likely to find mention in the manifestos of the political parties for the upcoming elections. According to sources, are set to promise universal health care coverage, including free medicines at government hospitals and health centers.
Although improving health care cover has been on the sarkari for some time, progress on this front has been as slow as dead. For the political party, the poll promise to improve the health care system is an attempt to project its pro-poor image. They often talk about the need for right to health care in their speeches. They talk about right to health in their manifesto.  

The UPA had begun the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) which it claims has brought down maternal and child deaths in the country.  But another day found it in mess of corruption and enquiries charges, counter charges which defeats the very purpose of the mission.

Its time health care should become a captioned subject of politicians manifesto and elections can be fought on health care issues.