‘Health care investment can’t focus on disease specific programmes’

March 28th, 2009 - 6:55 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, March 28 (IANS) Experts here feel this is the time to cut down on disease specific programmes in health policy and invest in basic infrastructure as cost of health care is soaring and many countries are struggling to make their health care systems effective.
“In many parts of the developing world, care is fragmented into different initiatives focused on individual diseases or projects. There is little attention to coherence and investment in basic infrastructure, services and resources,” K.S. Reddy, president of Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), said.

“While these vertical, disease specific programmes may be effective in tackling specific disease burden, such programmes are inadequate in addressing socio-economic determinants and result in a high burden of preventable diseases,” Reddy added.

Reddy was speaking at a PHFI foundation day lecture held in the capital Saturday.

H. Sudarshan, a renowned public health care expert who was also felicitated at the event, agreed with Reddy’s views.

“A comprehensive health care policy needs to be on the agenda. Vertical and disease-specific programmes can’t work while addressing the larger picture. The investment must be focused on all these issues,” Sudarshan said.

The lecture assessed the way health care is organised, financed and delivered in rich and poor countries around the world.

For 5.6 billion people in low and middle income countries, more than half of all health care expenditure is through out-of-pocket payments as per World Health Organisation estimates. So, with health care cost rising and financial protection systems in a disarray, expenditures on health push more than 100 million below the poverty line each year, the lecture indicated.

In such a scenario, primary health care (PHC) in India particularly has a wide scope, experts said.

“PHC in India has the power to deliver improved health outcomes. However, supportive policies need to be put in order to change traditional determinants of health,” said Andrews Haines, director London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London University.

Haines, who delivered the lecture, added: “Though PHC was traditionally used to address child health care, it has over the years evolved to tackle some chronic adult health problems such as mental health and even met with some success in tackling cardio-vascular diseases in some higher income countries.”

Reddy concluded that health inequities in India abound across gender, regional and social groups and “must be corrected through investments in a robust primary healthcare system.”

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