Low spending by India in these two areas has caused growing inequality, insufficient access and poor quality of healthcare services

Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Ahead of the Budget, experts are calling on the government to increase the budgetary allocation for health and family planning.

India spends just 1.3 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on healthcare. This figure is much lower compared to other BRICS countries—Brazil spends around 8.3 per cent, Russia 7.1 per cent and South Africa around 8.8 per cent. Among South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation or SAARC countries, Afghanistan spends 8.2 per cent, Maldives 13.7 per cent and Nepal 5.8 per cent. This low spending by India has been a cause for growing inequities, insufficient access and poor quality of healthcare services, experts highlight, saying that it is of utmost importance to spend more on public health.

The Twelfth Five Year Plan recommends increasing public expenditure on health to 2.5 of GDP by 2017.  However, that seems to be a distant dream as far as the 2017 Budget is concerned.  Experts demand that the government should follow the recommendations made in the Twelfth Five Year Plan.

“Around 40 million people are going below the poverty line every year only due to out of pocket expenditure on health. Will the government consider this fact this year and will take some concrete steps to improve the health of this country?” asks G S Grewal, former President of Punjab Medical Council.

According to the 2011 Census, 53 per cent of India’s population is in the reproductive age group (15- 49 years). One of five persons in our country is an adolescent (10-19 years) and every third is a young person (15-24 years), says Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director, Population Foundation of India.

She further says that the sheer size of the adolescent and youth population reflects the wealth of young human resource residing in the country. “There is a collective responsibility on the government, civil society and other’ stakeholders to work together to plan adequate and suitable opportunities as well as avenues to meet their needs and aspirations and   address the health and well-being of this population.  At the London Summit 2012, India committed to provide family planning services to an additional 48 million new users by 2020. To fulfill our FP2020 commitments and the responsibility towards the large young population, investments in health and family planning need to be proportionately increased,” says Muttreja.

Grewal said that the government should increase facilities and also tame the prices of healthcare in the private sector. “The government must make devices like stent and other necessary medicines affordable to larger masses.”