President concerned over low expenditure on health

New Delhi: Concerned over low expenditure on health, President Pranab Mukherjee today asked South-East Asia Region nations to ensure highest quality medicare for their people.

Inaugurating a meeting of Ministers of Health and a Session of WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia at Rashtrapati Bhavan, Mukherjee noted with concern that 46 per cent people in the region lived below poverty line.

He said nations need to adopt a multi-dimensional approach to build conducive environment and to ensure highest quality of health.

"An ideal health care delivery system should be accessible to all in the Region. Considering the current lack of access to quality health care at an affordable cost for the majority of the population in the Region, the proposed universal health coverage seems to be a very plausible solution," he said.

The President said countries need to strengthen health systems based on primary health care approach while focusing on public health based on domestic resources.

"It is also a matter of concern that South East Asia Region registers the lowest total expenditure on health as a percentage of gross domestic product (3.8 pc) and per capita total expenditure on health as per World Health Statistics 2009, with 84.4 pc out of pocket expenditure...I am sure the meeting of Health Ministers of the region...Would map the way forward for the entire Region," he said.

Mukherjee said strategic investments in medical education and training would be needed to enhance availability of scientifically credible professionals for all communities.

Besides, existing inefficiencies in supply chain and logistic management of drugs and vaccines should be addressed on a priority basis, he said.

There is need for adopting detailed regional action plan to control non-communicable diseases that lead to mortality globally and in the region, with around 7.9 million dying every year, accounting for 55 per cent of all deaths in the region.
Noting with concern the growing incidence of non-communicable diseases like hypertension among youth, Mukherjee called for steps to check the trend.

"The unabated rise in prevalence of hypertension cannot be ignored. It is alarming that incidence of hypertension is especially increasing among the youth. The stressful modern lifestyle further aggravates the situation," he said, adding that cost-effective and timely interventions need to be explored to check the "undesirable trend".

The President noted that since the number of people above 60 years of age will double from that in year 2000 and triple by 2050, there was need to promote healthy ageing in the region. At present there were 142 million people above 60, accounting for 8 per cent of population in WHO-SEAR nations.

He said the `Yogyakarta Declaration on Ageing and Health 2012` rightly affirms that elderly people are a precious social asset and serious efforts should be made by the Member States and partners in the South-East Asia Region to adopt a holistic approach to promote healthy ageing in the region.

Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad urged SEARO countries to join hands to develop and share initiatives and technologies to achieve the common goal of providing affordable and accessible health care to people in the region.

The Health Ministers` meeting will adopt the "Delhi Declaration on High Blood Pressure" as high-blood pressure is a component of NCDs, which pose major challenge to human health and are considered major cause of premature death in the Region.

Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Santosh Chowdhary, Indonesia`s Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi and WHO Director General Margaret Chan were also present.


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