New Delhi: The Niti Aayog has sought a hike in the taxes on tobacco, alcohol and sweetened beverages while suggesting that yoga be made a regular activity in schools to encourages healthy choices and behaviours. In its ‘Strategy for New India @75’ document released on Wednesday, the government think tank has sought increase in the public funding on health to at least 2.5 per cent of the GDP as envisaged in the National Health Policy, 2017.
To improve the public and preventive health system in the nation, it also called for strengthening the village health sanitation and nutrition day platform to cover a broader set of health issues across various population groups instead of only focusing on child health. The Aayog also called for activating multiple channels– schools, colleges, women’s groups, traditional events like fairs, social media platforms among others– and prepare communication materials for catalysing behavioural change towards greater recognition of preventive health care.
It also recommended incentivising state governments to invest in creating a dedicated cadre for public health at the state, district and block levels and instituting a public health and management cadre in states. The Niti Aayog further suggested that a designated agency needs to be set up with the required capacities and linkages to perform the functions of disease surveillance, information gathering on the health impact of policies of key non-health departments and maintenance of national health statistics among others.
Public health, the science of keeping communities healthy through the prevention of disease and promotion of health and wellness, has historically been a low priority in India, the Aayog said. “Of the total current expenditure on health classified by healthcare functions, preventive care accounts for 6.7 per cent. The money spent on curing people on the other hand is 51 per cent of the expenditure with the remaining money being spent on pharmaceuticals, other medical goods and patient transportation,” it said.
The report stated that public health action and management is a scientific and professional endeavour which should not be left to untrained employees relying on common sense alone. The Aayog further pitched for reform in the governance of medical, nursing, dentistry and pharmacy education in the country, enhancing production of doctors, training non-physicians, engaging private sector and ensuring access to affordable drugs and medical devices.