Civil society organisations issue ‘health manifesto’


New Delhi : Various civil society organisations and public health workers here Monday issued a health manifesto for political parties ahead of general elections, to draw attention to their demand that people’s health should be given priority as a “national political issue”.

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The “Peoples Health Manifesto 2009” was released by Jan Swasthya Abhiyaan (Peoples’ Health Movement), an association of over 1,000 organisations working in health care and policy.

Highlighting the situation of public health care and emphasising that the current condition is abysmal, especially for the poor, the manifesto asks political parties to take effective measures to “achieve the right to health, which includes the right not only to timely appropriate quality health care but also to the underlying socio economic and environmental determinants of health.”

It includes food security, the issue of malnutrition; safe water, sanitation to all and a regulatory framework to address health concerns of genetically modified (GM) cropping and import of GM foods as key factors.

The manifesto also calls for the government to enact a National Health Act ensuring “the right to comprehensive, quality health care at public expense in relevant health institutions to all, where everyone is entitled to the full range of guaranteed, free health services”.

The implementation of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) has been criticised in the manifesto, which calls for increased allocation and effective expenditure of funds for the project.

“The NRHM had envisaged expenditure of Rs.55,000 crore (Rs.550 billion) per year by 2012 but for past two to three years it has stagnated at about Rs.10,000-12,000 crore (Rs.100-120 billion) per year,” the manifesto said.

“The current health policies and their implementation need to be seriously examined so that new policies can be implemented in the framework of quality health care for all and access to basic determinants of health as a basic right,” said Amit Sengupta of the Jan Swasthya Abhiyaan.

“A recurring and distressing face of this reality is the unacceptable state of ill-health of our people. It is required that peoples’ health be given priority as a national political issue,” he said.

“We hope the recommendations in the manifesto will be incorporated by political parties in their election manifestos for the upcoming general election as a demonstration of their commitment to public health.”

The manifesto also stresses the need to reform and implement some existing policies on child health and nutrition, gender and health urgently as well as rework policy issues on drugs, medicines and patents.