Health bodies today welcomed the Centre's move to bring in the National Health Policy but cautioned against the sector being left at the mercy of market mechanism.
"The government needs to be careful in their enthusiasm to create favourable climate to engage with the private sector so that it does not put health in the market place," said Alok Mukhopadhyay, chairman of Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI), which has 4,500 member organisations.
"Leaving the health sector at the mercy of market mechanism might compromise the intrinsic values of health care," he said.
On Wednesday, the government approved the National Health Policy which proposes to provide "assured health services to all" in the country. It aims to provide free medicines and reduce out of pocket health expenditure.
VHAI lauded the government for the policy which seeks to reach everyone in a comprehensive way to move towards wellness and aims at achieving universal health coverage and delivering quality health care services to all at affordable cost.
It said the country has gone through a significant transition in its health challenges and the policy is extremely "timely and appropriate".
VHAI said the policy's clear target for reducing infant, maternal and neo-natal mortalities is a much-needed step, given the current situation in these areas of public health.
It said the government's commitment to tackle communicable diseases in a clear targeted manner will go a long way to meet the Sustainable Development Goals and is in tune with the regional commitment on disease elimination.
"This good intention can only get translated into reality if we significantly improve the accountability and governance of the health sector," VHAI said.
Kenneth E. Thorp, the chairman of Partnership to Fight Chronic Diseases (PFCD), said approval of the policy is a clear indication of the government's long-term commitment to find sustainable solutions to address the growing burden of non-communicable diseases as well as recognition of its socio-economic impact.
"The National Health Policy is certainly a step in the right direction. It encompasses the relevant provisions to ensure quality health care through greater investment in health, emphasis on prevention of diseases and promotion of good health through capacity building, financial protection and progressive assurance for health," he said.
"We are looking forward to an effective implementation of this policy which should also be feasible and scalable.
"If done with a right approach, these guidelines will be instrumental in addressing the growing disease burden and in providing accessible and affordable health care to all," Aman Gupta, country representative of PFCD said.
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