Moving forward in the direction of reducing inequities requires actions not only within the health sector but also across other sectors : Ghulam Nabi Azad
The Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad has reaffirmed that the Government of India is committed to meet and overcome the challenge of addressing social inequities. Moving forward in the direction of reducing inequities requires actions not only within the health sector but also across other sectors, the Minister said. While inaugurating the day long National Consultation on Social Determinants of Health in New Delhi today, Shri Azad said in the 12th Plan, in the attempt to provide universal heal care, steps would be taken to provide free generic drugs at all public health facilities for reducing financial burden on the patients. “If it means investing more for the poorer segments of society, we shall do it; if it means challenging the biases against the marginalized segments of society, we shall do it; if it means ensuring better integration of different development programmes, we shall do it; and if it means reducing out of pocket expenditure on healthcare for the people who cannot afford it, we shall do it”, Shri Azad emphasized. A book titled “Unite for Health – Addressing the Social Determinants” was also released on the occasion by all the dignitaries present. The social determinants of health are the conditions in which people are born, grow live, work and age, including the health system. The Commission on Social Determinants of Health has outlined that unequal distribution of health damaging experiences are perpetuated by a combination of poor social policies and programmes and unfair economic arrangements, globally and nationally. Social determinants of health such as poor economic status, lower social status, unemployment, under-nutrition, unhealthy environment and poor access to health system contribute significantly to premature deaths and diseases particularly among vulnerable groups such as women, children and minority groups. It is thus vital to help build a sustainable national movement for action on health equity and social determinants, linking Governments, international organizations, research institutions, civil society and communities. Today’s national consultation on the Social Determinants of Health is an effort in this direction and an attempt to connect all the dots for a comprehensive perspective of health. Addressing the gathering, the Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare, Shri S. Gandhiselvan said health inequities cause unnecessary suffering and are the results of adverse social conditions causing poverty and exclusion. Health inequities are a problem for all countries and reflect not only differences in income and wealth, but also differences in opportunity on the basis of factors such as ethnicity and racism, class, caste, gender, education, disability, and geographical location. The Minister lamented that the health status of the citizens of India still lags behind and the health gains in the country have been uneven. Although there have been substantial advances in life expectancy and disease prevention, the health systems provide little protection against financial risk, and most importantly there is widespread inequity in the health status of the population. Thus, our policies and programmatic interventions have to be tailored to the State specific context, Shri Gandhiselvan said. Professor Michael Marmot, Chair of Commission on Social Determinants of Health, Officers of Health Ministry and other stakeholder Ministries, Officers of various State Governments, Donor partners and Members of Civil Society attended the day long deliberations.