Draft national health policy which proposes making health a fundamental right also envisages increased role of community in planning and implementing health services
The Union health ministry has released the draft of the new health policy, which proposes a National Health Right Act. If implemented, the law may prove to be a milestone for health services in the country.
The ministry has given the public time till February 28 to give their comments on the draft policy. It also seeks people’s opinion on whether there is a need of a right-based Act for health on the lines of Right to Education (RTE) Act.
The draft policy argues in favour of the law, saying, “many industrialized nations have laws that do so. Many of the developing nations that have made significant progress towards universal health coverage, like Brazil and Thailand, have done so and the presence of such a law was a major contributory factor.”
Once it comes into force, the National Health Right Act will make health a fundamental right.
Another important part of the policy draft is increased role of community in planning and implementing the health services. The policy draft says, “All elected local bodies—rural and urban would be enabled to provide leadership and participate in the functioning of district and sub-district institutions. Most important of these are the Rogi Kalyan Samitis (RKS) and the Village Health Sanitation and Nutrition Committee (VHSNC).”
In particular, they would be in charge of and could be financed for implementing a number of preventive and health promotion actions that are to be implemented at the level of the community.
The draft copy of the policy also emphasises the need of proper implementation of decisions taken. It clearly admits that past policies have faced innumerable constraints in implementation.
The National Health Policy envisages an implementation framework to deliver on policy commitments. Such an implementation framework would specify approved financial allocations and link them with measurable numerical output targets and time schedules.
The proposed policy highlights a major challenge prevailing in the health sector. It says, “There are unfortunately a number of laws that have over time developed inadequacies due to changed contexts and a number of newly emerged services and technologies where laws are needed.”
Laws under review include the Mental Health Bill, the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, the Bill regulating surrogate pregnancy and assisted reproductive technologies, Food Safety Act, Drugs and Cosmetics Act and the Clinical Establishments Act. The process of aligning many of these laws to meet people’s needs and changed circumstances and understanding becomes one of the urgent tasks in the coming years.
In the past, the government of India had drafted national health policies twice—1983 and 2002.