Better health services for poor envisaged

New Delhi: The budget for 2012-13 Friday focused on better health services to the poor in rural as well as urban slums, increasing the outlay of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and launching the National Urban Health Mission.

The government hiked by nearly 15 percent the budget for NRHM with an outlay of Rs.20,822 crore ($4.14 billion).

Presenting his seventh budget in the Lok Sabha, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee announced: "I propose to increase the allocation to NRHM from Rs.18,115 crore in 2011-12 to Rs.20,822 crore in 2012-13."

The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) flagship programme was launched in 2005 and aims to provide quality healthcare to villagers.

It is being implemented by a network of nearly 800,000 Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs).

"The scope of ASHA`s activities is being enlarged to include prevention of Iodine Deficiency Disorders, ensure 100 percent immunisation and better spacing of children," he said.

"At the community level, a more active role is envisaged for ASHA as the convenor of the village health and sanitation committee, as also to support the initiative on malnutrition. Since ASHAs receive activity-wise, performance-based payments, this will also enhance their remuneration," he added.

To target the urban poor, the government also launched the National Urban Health Mission, which aims to provide basic primary health needs of the people who live in shanties in cities.

Aiming to reach out to people living in the remotest part of the country, the government has already started upgrading the existing hospitals and establishing new hospitals.

This has been done under the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY).

Under this scheme, the government had aimed at setting up eight All India Institute of Medical Sciences-like institutions and upgradation of existing government medical colleges.

"It will enhance the availability of affordable tertiary health care," he said..

Mukherjee also lauded the government`s efforts to virtually eradicate polio.

"They say persistence pays. I am happy to inform honurable members that no new case of polio was reported in the last one year," he said.

"By modernising existing units and setting up a new integrated vaccine unit near Chennai, the government will achieve vaccine security and keep the pressure on disease eradication and prevention," he added.