Timely move for affordable, quality healthcare- Sambal member upload

The article explains the positive initiatives taken under the National Health Policy. It also links different aspects of the policy with humanitarian and resilience building work. Published in "The Sentinel" 27 April, 2017

BY: Sheikh Khairul Rahaman
Original Source / Author: The Sentinel (News Paper) / Sheikh Khairul Rahaman 04 Dec, 2017
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Timely move for affordable, quality healthcare

NATIONAL HEALTH POLICY 2017

(Originally published in ‘The Sentinel’ - http://www.sentinelassam.com/story.php/editorial/0/timely-move-for-affordable-quality-healthcare/2017-08-07/1/305809?sec=editorial&subsec=0&news_name=timely-move-for-affordable-quality-healthcare&dtP=2017-08-07&ppr=1&id=305809#.WiVhcFWWbIV)

By Sheikh Khairul Rahaman

To address the changing scenario, besides current and emerging challenges, in the health sector, the National Health Policy (NHP) 2017 was approved by the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 15th March 2017.

The policy aims to provide affordable and quality healthcare to all. It targets to universalise health coverage to all progressively and it will impact in 50% increase (by 2025) in utilization of public health facility. To achieve this target, the trust of people on public health facility will be increased. The policy intends to ‘inform, clarify, strengthen and prioritize the role of the Government in shaping health systems.’ It is built on the progress made since the last National Health Policy 2002 and current situation and changes in the health sector.

To achieve the overall goal, it will also be linked with other schemes and services – such as providing access to safe water and sanitation to all by 2020 (Swachh Bharat Mission), linking different health programs, making health services gender-sensitive and provide free and with dignity service to the victims of gender based violence.

Global processes are underway to address health challenges and the NHP 2017 has been perfectly timed and aligned with it. The policy recognizes the role of and aligned with international targets, frameworks and agendas. Further, it recognizes the importance of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). So, a time bound targets are set to meet the directions set bySDGs. It has set targets to curb the negative indices of health. The New Urban Agenda (Habitat III) agrees on sustainable, inclusive and equitable cities for all. India, including Assam is rapidly urbanizing and will continue in the coming decades. This is high time to manage it to reduce future vulnerabilities.

The policy puts a focus on urban health care. It is also much focused to reach to the most vulnerable population of the city. It has included the priorities of Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. Especially, it talks about investments is health care and its infrastructure and build resilient of the health care system that can also work during emergencies (Priority 3 under Sendai Framework for DRR); and put focus on preparedness of systems to be ready to respond in disasters (Priority 4 under Sendai Framework for DRR).

The policy proposes free drugs, free diagnostics and free emergency and essential healthcare in all public hospitals and raise public health expenditure to 2.5 per cent (from 1.15% now) of GDP. There will be package of assured comprehensive primary healthcare, allocation of resources for primary care and intend to avail two beds per 1000 population.

The policy is well versed with the inevitable growth of urban population and it puts focus to reach people at the last mile of the society by focusing on poor populations living in slums, homeless, rag-pickers, street children, rickshaw pullers, construction workers, sex workers and temporary migrants.With this, we are a step closer to meet target of New Urban Agenda and Smart City to make our cities sustainable, resilient and safe for all.

Child healthcare is a priority in the policy where it has set goals to reduce number of child deaths through different measures. School health program will see a reform by including health and hygiene education in the school curriculum. Malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies will be tackled through strategic micronutrient interventions. It aims at universal immunization with quality and safety.

The policy is acquainted to manage health care needs arise out of increased frequency and intensity of disasters. This is one of the unique features of the policy. Surge capacity in terms of health infrastructure, human resources, and modern technology to manage disasters is to bring out better and timely health services to the people affected by disaster. Resilient health infrastructure (earthquake and cyclone resistant) will be developed in locations vulnerable to different disasters. Protocols will be developed to curb mass casualty during mass gathering or any other events.

Along with infrastructure, it also talks about improved systems equipped with modern facilities and skilled human resources to respond to disasters and emergencies. It aims to develop a unified emergency response system with network of emergency care stationed with life support ambulances, trauma management centres.

Collaboration with NGOs and private sectors has been another one focus of the policy. It plans to leverage skilled human resources for medical relief and post trauma counselling during disasters. Unified emergency response system will be develop to remove ambiguity and duplication. Information on infrastructure and service available with different stakeholders for disaster management will be shared to develop comprehensive information system to use during emergencies. The growing private health care system will be aligned to achieve the public health goals.

Assam is a multi-hazard prone state and each year it faces one or several disaster – such as floods, earthquake, storms and landslide along with different health hazards. Almost every year the state capital Guwahati gets flooded. The state also faced several epidemics in recent history – Malaria epidemic in 2006, Encephalitis outbreak in 2014. Those epidemics were standalone events or were effect of any other disaster. There have been several steps taken by the government to prepare itself to tackle disasters.  Last year, “Jalrahat,” first of its kind exercise or mega flood drill was conducted in Assam. This was one of the big moves to build capacity of line departments and get it ready to face severe floods. In same year, we also got the first National Disaster Management Plan that aims to provide a framework and direction for action for all phases of disaster management cycle. A bunch of initiatives will be taken to manage disaster, including the urban floods in Guwahati under the plan.

The National Health Policy 2017 has been one of the timely bold step to manage health issues and emergencies. The policy sketches reforms of the health care system at different levels. The state is going to see increase investment in health care, use of modern technology in health sector, building capacity of human resources, building knowledge base with support from other stakeholders, collaboration with different stakeholders for support during disaster and emergencie.

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