Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Jagat Prakash Nadda

Coming after a long wait of 15 years, the National Health Policy 2017 is a huge milestone in the history of health sector in the country, said Jagat Prakash Nadda, Minister of Health and Family Welfare, in his address to both houses of Parliament on Thursday, a day after the Union Cabinet cleared the much awaited policy to “address the current and emerging challenges necessitated by the changing socio-economic, technological and epidemiological landscape”.

“The Draft National Health Policy was placed it public domain on 30th December, 2014. Over 5,000 suggestions were received. This was followed by consultations with the state governments and other stakeholders for further fine tuning of the policy. The policy was placed before the Central Council for Health & Family Welfare, the apex policy making body and was unanimously endorsed by it,” Nadda said.

According to the minister, the new health policy is aimed at delivering healthcare in an assured manner to all, particularly the underserved and underprivileged.

Some of its key features include prioritising the role of the government in shaping health systems in all its dimensions — investment in health, organisation and financing of healthcare services, prevention of diseases and promotion of good health through cross-sectoral action, access to technologies, developing human resources, encouraging medical pluralism, building the knowledge base required for better health, financial protection strategies and regulation and progressive assurance for health.

“As a crucial component, the policy proposes raising public health expenditure to 2.5 per cent of the GDP in a time bound manner. The policy advocates a progressively incremental assurance-based approach. It envisages providing larger package of assured comprehensive primary health care through the Health and Wellness Centers and denotes important change from very selective to comprehensive primary health care package which includes care for major NCDs, mental health, geriatric health care, palliative care and rehabilitative care services,” Nadda said.

The policy also aims to ensure availability of two beds per 1,000 population distributed in a manner to enable access within golden hour. In order to provide access and financial protection, it proposes free drugs, free diagnostics and free emergency and essential healthcare services in all public hospitals.

The broad principles of the policy are centered on professionalism, integrity and ethics, equity, affordability, universality, patient centered and quality of care, accountability and pluralism, the health minister said.

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