The image of Dana Majhi carrying his dead wife on his shoulder in Odisha comes easily to mind when one thinks of the country’s rickety health infrastructure. The National
Health Policy, which has just been announced, aims to increase the public expenditure of health to 2.5 per cent of GDP. But there is always the proverbial lag between desire and fulfilment. At the beginning of the Eleventh
Plan period (2007-12), the public expenditure on health was below one per cent and was projected to reach 2 per cent at the end of the period. But it has reached that figure only now. The private sector provides nearly three-fourths of the expenditure on health. And when the country as a whole is considered, patients themselves provide close to 75 per cent of the health care costs. Health
accounts for about 10 per cent of the family expenditure. The percentage figure goes up as one goes down the income level, sending down millions of people below the poverty line each year. The World Health Organisation has recommended that 5 per cent of GDP be spent on health. Even if we cannot reach the prescriptive figure now, we should be able to reach 3 per cent.