India’s health care to get US$100-billion boost as Narendra Modi seeks to reduce maternal deaths

  • Health spending will more than double to 2.5 per cent of GDP by 2025
  • Women, children and youth to remain at heart of government’s policies
PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 December, 2018, 5:00pm
UPDATED : Friday, 14 December, 2018, 7:54pm

India has pledged to spend US$100 billion more on health care over the next seven years in a move partly aimed at reducing maternal mortality rates.

The country will more than double its health spending from just over the current 1 per cent of gross domestic product to 2.5 per cent by 2025, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced.

“This will mean an actual increase of 345 per cent over the current share, in just eight years. We will continue to work for the betterment of people. Women, children and youth will continue to remain at the heart of every policy, programme or initiative,” he said.

Quoting from Hindu scriptures – he said that “where women are honoured, divinity blossoms there” – Modi told a meeting in New Delhi of the 2018 Partners Forum on Wednesday that India would achieve global targets to reduce maternal and infant deaths before the 2030 deadline. The forum is an amalgamation of national and global organisations working to improve maternal and child health.

“The health of mothers will determine the health of the children and the health of children will determine the health of our tomorrow,” he said. Modi pointed out that when the millennium development goals were agreed in 2000, India had very high maternal and child mortality rates. According to World Bank figures, India reduced its maternal mortality rate from 556 deaths per 100,000 live births to 174 between 1990 and 2015.

Where women are honoured, divinity blossoms there
Modi quoting a Hindu scripture

Since then, while a lot remained to be done, India had made considerable progress through a variety of programmes, he said. Modi pointed to the success of the country’s immunisation programme.

India has managed to immunise 32.8 million children and 8.4 million pregnant women over the last three years. The number of vaccinations each person should receive has also gone up from seven to 12 to cover life-threatening diseases such as pneumonia and diarrhoea. According to government statistics, many districts have increased immunisation coverage for children between 12 and 23 months from 50 per cent or less to 90 per cent.

Modi said that better antenatal care, ensuring that women delivered in hospitals rather than at home, better facilities for newborns, free health check-ups, and action to prevent or treat malnutrition were some of the measures responsible for lowering the maternal and child mortality rates.

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In September, the Modi government launched an ambitious health care scheme to help the millions of Indian families who fall into debt or bankruptcy when a serious illness hits them. It aims to provide cashless treatment to 500 million Indians.

Modi said that in the first 10 weeks, half a million patients had received treatment under the scheme.