Is 4-member team at MoH&FW sign for good health?

Siddhartha D. Kashyap

Many would assume that ensuring good health has finally gained priority in the Modi-led administration, with the induction of two new Ministers of State (MoS) – Anupriya Patel and Faggan Singh Kulaste – during Tuesday’s expansion.

Health analysts are of the opinion that the four-member team of ministers, led by JP Nadda – the largest ever – is a step towards realizing the party’s poll promise of according high priority to the health sector, which is crucial for securing the economy.

“It was high time that Prime Minister Modi realized the need for India to have a holistic care system that is universally accessible and effective,” an analyst explained, emphasizing that it is however important for the group of ministers to chalk out a long-term plan of action.

The task, but, isn’t an easy one. India is fighting a tough battle. With a burgeoning population of over 1.3 billion, the nation has a daunting task at hand — ensuring healthy living for all alike.

Adding to the health challenges is the epidemiological transition that India is currently undergoing, with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) claiming more lives than ever before. According to WHO, out of the total 98.16 lac estimated deaths in India reported in 2014, NCDs held over 60% share.

Accountable for 53% of the disease burden, NCDs are depleting the country of its economic, social and human resources. It is estimated that India stands to lose $6.20 trillion between 2012-30 due to NCDs and mental health conditions.

What’s worrisome is that the probability of death during the most productive years (ages 30-70) from the four main NCDs is a staggering 26%. Experts have pointed out that in the absence of a robust primary health care and the inability to prevent and diagnose NCDs at an early stage is fast translating into lost manpower and skill costs. It is also dragging millions of Indians into poverty due to rising out-of-pocket medical expenses.

As the BJP’s manifesto before the last general elections stated the current situation calls for radical reforms in the healthcare system with regards to national healthcare programs and delivery, medical education and training and financing of healthcare, it is time that Prime Minister Modi’s colleagues in the health ministry pull out all the stops to put good health as a top priority.

Siddhartha D. Kashyap is the practice head (market access & advocacy) at S.P.A.G. He can be reached at siddhartha.kashyap@spag.asia

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