Include right to health in party manifestos, demand activists -Kundan Pandey
-Down to Earth
As elections approach and parties announce candidates' lists, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (JSA), the Indian circle of People's Health Movement, is trying to convince all political parties to include health as a prominent issue in their manifestos.
After discussing the matter with other civil society members and groups, JSA has sent a charter of demands to political parties.
While finalising the demands, JSA organised a meeting of groups working in the health sector in Nagpur on January 31. A planning meeting was also organised in Delhi. All JSA members and supporters participated in the meeting and took inputs for a people's health manifesto and to identify strategies to influence political parties on JSA's health demands.
The list includes passing a national health right Bill, increasing health spending from 1 per cent at present to 3 per cent of GDP, improving public health system, and restricting growth of private sector in healthcare among other things.
Joe Verghese, who is associated with JSA, said that health is major concern, and yet it is not reflected in party manifestos.
Highlighting the major reason for specific demands, he said that like the Food Security Act, health should also be made entitlement. At present, it is just providing simple facilities. It should be considered a fundamental right of common man; this is the reason, a demand of national health right Bill has been made, he said.
'Restrict growth of private healthcare'
The other important concern highlighted by JSA is the dominance of private sector in health services. It is clear that private sector is being encouraged to increase its stake in the health sector which is not a right signal for public health, activists said. Government must restrict this development and it should increase it focus on strengthening health establishments, especially primary health centres, they added.
JSA is also organising a pre-election national convention on March 28-29 in Delhi. Representatives of political parties have been invited to the event discuss the people's health manifesto.
Similarly, a group of organisations working for urban children has prepared a list of demands and are planning to persuade political parties to include these as well in their manifestos. The organisations include Delhi Forces, Delhi Bachpan Suraksha Manch, Alliance for People's Rights, Sanjha Manch, Delhi Shiksha ka Adhikar Manch, Roji Roti Adhikar Abhiyan, JSA, Delhi and IUPW (Priya).
Earlier, on January 25, Mobile Creches office and Delhi Forces convened a meeting with eight networks to plan strategies for upcoming Lok Sabha election. Their demands included strict implementation of National Food Security Act and quality implementation of recently launched National Urban Health Mission (NUHM). The non-profits demanded proper distribution of human and financial resources under these programmes, government recognition for community-based nutrition management structure and proper coordination among various departments.
Besides health, activists have also demanded complete implementation of Right to Education Act, 2009, day care centres in all localities, and protection of the girl child and prevention of female foeticide through proper implementation of PCPNDT Act, 2003.
Experts said there is need to highlight children's health concern and emphasised on the need for specific medical care, medicines and medical equipment to meet their needs. There is a need for health personnel who are trained to understand and manage children's health problems, like pediatric dosages of medicines, they said.