27/01/2017 12:21 PM IST | Updated 30/01/2017 9:08 AM IST

Budget 2017: We Need Greater Impetus On Health And Family Planning For Truly Robust Growth

Adnan Abidi / Reuters

According to Census 2011, 53% of India's population is in their reproductive age group (15- 49 years). One of five persons in our country is an adolescent (10-19 years) and every third is a young person (15-24 years). The sheer size of the adolescent and youth population reflects the wealth of young human resource residing in the country. There is collective responsibility on the government, civil society and other stakeholders to work together to plan adequate and suitable opportunities as well as avenues to meet their needs and aspirations and address the health and well-being of this population. At the London Summit 2012, India committed to provide family planning services to an additional 48 million new users by 2020. To fulfill our FP2020 commitments and the responsibility towards the large young population, investments in health and family planning need to be proportionately increased.

Investing in health is critical for achieving economic development goals.

According to the FP2020 progress report 2015-16, India reached only 7.7 million additional users, as of July 2016. Three million additional users have been reached last year, in contrast to 1.5 million additional users reached each year for the first three years. The accelerated efforts of the government towards universal access to family planning are also evident in its introduction of three new spacing methods of contraception in the family planning programme. Progestin Only Pills, Centchroman and injectable contraceptive have been introduced in 2015, offering greater choice and autonomy to the users of family planning.

The issue of increasing budget allocation for health and family planning is of utmost concern. India spends just 1.3% of its GDP on healthcare. This figure is much lower compared to other BRICS countries—Brazil spends around 8.3%, the Russia Federation 7.1% and South Africa around 8.8%. Among SAARC countries, Afghanistan spends 8.2%, Maldives 13.7% and Nepal 5.8%. This low spending by India has been a cause for the growing inequities, insufficient access and poor quality of healthcare services.

The 12th Five Year Plan recommends increasing public expenditure on health to 2.5% of GDP by 2017. Between 2015-16 and 2016-17, the Government of India's allocations for the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) increased by 13% but the share of National Health Mission in MOHFW's budget declined to 48%.Trends in budget allocations indicate that percentage share to family planning has remained the same between 2013-14 and 2016-17, i.e., at 2% of the total MOHFW budget.

Further, during financial year 2015-16, 59% of the government's fund release was primarily done in the last quarter whereas 72% was released in the first two quarters in 2014- 15. This evidences staggered supply of funds for health resources and affects required investments.

Adequate and proportionate resources invested now will bear positive dividends for the country's future.

Investing in health is critical for achieving economic development goals. The health sector, which drives domestic demand for healthcare, has the potential for providing new jobs. The lack of skilled workforce is currently stark in the health sector. Increased investment will also bring down the prices of health services to the people and assist in sustaining the medium-term inflation target of 4%.

The Population Foundation of India looks to the government to prioritise investments in health and specifically family planning in the upcoming budget announcement. Adequate and proportionate resources invested now will bear positive dividends for the country's future.

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