‘India should increase healthcare spend to 2.5 per cent’

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Hyderabad | Published: March 6, 2016 1:05:48 AM

The Indian government spend on healthcare, which is about 1.1% of the total GDP at the moment, is very less and should be increased to at least 2.5%,’’ says Henk Bekedam, WHO representative to India.

“The Indian government spend on healthcare, which is about 1.1% of the total GDP at the moment, is very less and should be increased to at least 2.5%,’’ says Henk Bekedam, WHO representative to India. He says that while the country is famous for its top-class quality healthcare services, also called the “pharmacy of the world”, the government spend on the healthcare sector has been quite less for a long period of time. The central government has to raise resources from reallocation of subsidies to optimisation of welfare budgets, besides working with the state governments, he added.

Giving his keynote address at the Express Healthcare Sabha 2016, organised by The Indian Express group in Hyderabad, Bekedam said the spend has to be increased by the government to increase the average life expectancy in the country from the current level of about 66 years.

Comparing the Chinese government spend of 3.5% and Brazil’s 5%, he said the improvement will decrease premature deaths among the poor who cannot afford expensive tertiary care. “Invest in health and protect your people. You don’t need to be a rich country to start universal health coverage. You just need to start,’’ he said.

Highlighting the recent Budget proposals, Bekedam said while there has been little focus to increase allocation, setting up of 3,000 generic medical stores is a welcome move. However, there has to be more finance schemes to subsidise the poor. “In fact, if a certain percentage of population is coming out of poverty due to economic growth, at least 5-6% is falling into poverty after paying hefty healthcare bills. The good news in the recent Budget is the R1 lakh health insurance scheme. The less good news is that there is no increase in the allocation of the National Health Mission,” he said.

During a panel discussion on ‘Implementation of universal health coverage/insurance—a road map’, Gullapalli N Rao, chairman, LV Prasad Eye Institute, said a system has to built for promotion health, treatment and rehabilitation. “A comprehensive multi-tier care has to be built which has to be sustainable,’’ he said. “Public investment in health to 2.5% of the GDP will also reduce the double burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases,” he added.

The public-private partnerships (PPPs) should be defined as partnerships for public purpose,” Srinath Reddy, president, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), said. “Partnership for public purpose is the new version of the PPP model for enabling access to affordable quality and healthcare services,” he said. “People should be the fourth P to be added in the PPP,” added Mirai Chatterjee, director, Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA).

Healthcare experts pointed out that India’s disease burden is much higher than other emerging economies such as China, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico and Sri Lanka. Even poorer neighbours such as Nepal and Bangladesh have a better record in healthcare compared to India. The World Bank reports that 50% of economic growth differentials between developing and developed nations are attributed to poor health and low life expectancy. While successive governments have committed to various development goals, no government programme has yet focused on resolving the issues related to a mismanaged regulatory climate, knowledge and infrastructure deficit, and inefficient public healthcare expenditure.

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