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Delay of National Urban Health Mission a major setback for urban poor

In early 2010, the Indian government announced the delay of a major initiative to provide affordable health services for the urban poor, dealing a huge blow to the slum dwellers without social safety nets and stuck with a strained and fraying healthcare system.

Intellecap writes,

“Since 2008, the Indian government has planned to create a National Urban Health Mission (NUHM), to complement the National Rural Health Commission. NUHM was expected to benefit slum dwellers in particular by building the capacity of existing public health facilities and by working with local NGOs to provide the urban poor with proper health services.

However, in February of this year, the government delayed plans for the launch of the NUHM until the next five‐year plan, pushing it back until at least 2012.

In global comparisons of health care spending, India is among the lowest ranked, with government health-related spending less than 5.2% of GDP. Dr N. Devadasan, Director of Institute of Public Health, Bangalore, said: “This inadequate public health spending has forced the public to depend on the private sector.”

The price barriers on private healthcare force the urban poor into the general healthcare system.

Implications

Intellecap writes, “Urban health systems are strained, and facilities lack appropriate infrastructure. Government hospitals are characterized by corrupt management, and private healthcare is often too expensive for the poor. Urban hospitals are particularly stressed, due to visits from not just the urban poor, but also the rural poor, who often have very little access to health facilities.” Poor sanitation and healthcare pose huge risks to rapidly urbanizing areas, and any delay in major initiatives to provide health services to slum communities could prove disastrous.

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