February 5, 2015
New Delhi, India - On February 2, the Commission on Investing in Health (CIH) launched its Global Health 2035 report in New Delhi, India. Commissioners Dean Jamison and Srinath Reddy shared the CIH’s vision of increasing domestic investments in health, achieving universal health coverage (UHC), and implementing progressive fiscal policies to address India’s dual burden of poor maternal and neonatal health and rising rates of non-communicable diseases.
In an interview with MK Venu on Rajya Sabha TV, Dr. Reddy, the President of the Public Health Foundation of India, explained the importance of UHC in India, which currently has among the highest rates of out-of-pocket payment for health services. UHC can improve health and protect the poor by “ensuring the provision – to all people – of high quality, needed health services without financial risk.”
Professor Jamison, in his evening lecture ‘Global Health 2035: Promises and Challenges,’ highlighted the need to increase public health spending in order for India to reach UHC and meet its health goals. “Domestic finance needs to play a dominant role in financing convergence,” he said. “While India’s progress in health has been significant in many ways, things could be vastly better still if more investments were made.”
The Global Health 2035 launch came at a crucial time in India’s health policy debates. The new budget will be announced later this month, and the Ministry of Finance is expected to make substantial cuts to India’s already minimal health budget. India’s public health expenditure is currently at only 1% of GDP, which is significantly lower than other countries in the region including Sri Lanka, Thailand, and China.
Yet, there is promise in the recently released draft of the 2015 National Health Policy, which lays out an ambitious health agenda and proposes increasing health spending to 2.5% of GDP. Commissioners Jamison and Reddy spoke to the central role that these upcoming policy decisions will have in shaping India’s future health outcomes. As Professor Jamison said in his talk on Monday, ensuring better health is “a question of implementing the right policies.”