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Lancet Comment on India's healthcare budget

9 February 2017

Expert panel says improving healthcare for all is India's grand challenge

A group of researchers supported by the Grand Challenges programme have published a critique of India's latest budget and its implications for healthcare in the country in The Lancet.

The researchers, led by Grand Challenge of Cultural Understanding co-ordinator Dr Aarathi Prasad, note the planned increase in health spending by the latest Government budget, but set out the challenges India faces in improving healthcare outcomes for all of its 1.25 billion citizens.

Read the commentary in The Lancet (login required).

India has ambitious “action plans” for improving health and ameliorating disease, including the elimination of several infectious diseases—visceral leishmaniasis and filariasis in 2017, leprosy by 2018, measles by 2020, and tuberculosis by 2025. The new budget also contains plans for national laws and regulations to be amended or implemented to reduce the costs of medicines and medical devices nationwide. Other announcements included the creation of two new All India Institutes of Medical Sciences in the states of Jharkhand and Gujarat modelled on India's flagship medical school in New Delhi.

But despite these planned improvements to health in India, the Lancet commentary is also clear that the country will still continue to spend less on the health of its population per capita and percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) than most other countries in the world. There are a number of barriers that may hinder the impact of the increased health spending, including ill-equipped health centres, inadequately trained primary care staff and India's disproportionate reliance on a growing, largely unregulated private health-care sector. The commentary asks difficult questions of healthcare in India: "Why don't national and state governments make the health of all citizens a high priority? Or, at the very least, why is health not given its own due consideration within the annual budget?"

The Lancet commentary is part of the Difficult Dialogues series of events, being held in Goa, India in February 2017. UCL is the knowledge partner to this series, exploring the challenges India faces in creating conditions for good health and healthcare access for all citizens. Difficult Dialogues will include discussions under four broad themes: Inequalities in Health and Healthcare; Perceptions of Gender and Consequences for Health; Universal Health (Care) Coverage; and The Changing Burden of Disease.

Find out more about the India Voices strand of work, part of the Grand Challenge of Cultural Understanding.