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Public Health Community Welcomes Increased Budget for Health

The Resource Group for Education and Advocacy for Community Health (REACH) has welcomed the announcement by Mr J.P. Nadda, Union Health and Family Welfare Minister, on the commitment to increase health expenditure to 2.5% of GDP from the present 1.15% in the coming financial year.

The announcement is in keeping with the recommendations of the National Health Policy, 2017 to raise expenditure on health to 2.5% by 2025.

“While it is heartening to perceive tangible actions being taken by the Union Government to prioritise health, we urge for adequate attention and proportionate resource allocations for Tuberculosis (TB) in the coming financial year,’’ a statement issued by REACH said here.

Tuberculosis remains one of the leading causes of death with an estimated 9 million new cases every year as per data from the World Health Organisation. In India, the disease kills an estimated 480,000 persons annually and more than 1400 every day as per the National Strategic Plan for Tuberculosis elimination 2017-2025. The high mortalities make TB a public health concern that deserves the collective attention and collaboration of all stakeholders.

The budget for the National Strategic Plan to eliminate Tuberculosis by 2025 has been reduced to Rs 12,000 crore against the required Rs 16,000 crores as recommended by the plan. Despite the nearly two decade long implementation of the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Program (RNTCP), India has much to do to amplify quality of care, access, monitoring and after-care for a disease of this proportion.

“The present resource allocations for TB are not sufficient to meet the needs of the 14 lakh detected cases of TB annually. The funds are inadequate to cover the missing million cases India sees in TB every year or to achieve coverage for the 28 lakh patients as per WHO’s calculation. The gaps in funds for TB have traditionally affected hiring for key positions at the state for the roll out of the TB programme that in turn affects crucial aspects of quality of care and continuum of services. Fund deficits also affect the availability and access to trained counsellors for TB thereby jeopardising vital aspect of services required for those suffering from the disease,’’ REACH has pointed out in its statement.

“We are cognisant of the decisive measures taken by the government to combat TB. In the last few years, MoHFW has taken concrete steps to scale up testing for TB through enhanced availability of the cartridge- based nucleic acid amplification (CBNAAT) across the country. This has resulted in accurate testing and notifications for TB cases. The Union Government has also been successful in ensuring the implementation of positive ways to capture TB notifications from the private sector. There has been more than a three-fold growth in these notifications. However, there is need to prioritise inter-sectoral convergence efforts to address TB beyond the National Strategic Plan- towards a community engagement and rights based approach to TB as opposed to merely a clinical one. REACH, along with other advocates, experts and TB-affected communities, stands committed to support the government and all its agencies to ensure that we eliminate TB by 2025 alongside assuring continued services, community support and stigma-free life for all those who are affected by the disease,’’ the statement said while adding that a boost to the funds for TB by the Union Government would imply a definitive step towards the larger vision.

REACH, established in 1999 in response to the rolling out of the Revised National TB Control Program (RNTCP) in Tamil Nadu, supports, cares and provided treatment for TB patients in addition to indulging in research, advocacy, public education and communication.

By TIS Staffer
the authorBy TIS Staffer

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