Integrated health policy in a month

BANGALORE Dec. 7. The State Government will soon announce an integrated health policy aimed at achieving equity, quality, and integrity in health and healthcare.

Based on the draft Karnataka Integrated Health Policy drawn up by the Task Force on Health and Family Welfare, headed by H. Sudarshan, the new health policy will have a strong emphasis on the process and implementation of health services and serve as an instrument for optimal, people-oriented development of health services.

The Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Kagodu Thimmappa, told The Hindu that the high-level committee set up for this purpose had completed several rounds of discussions with officials of the Department of Health and Family Welfare, officers of other government departments, NGOs, and the public. Final touches were being given to the new policy and it would be announced within a month, he said.

The draft health policy, spelt out in the final report of the Task Force on Health and Family Welfare, has touched upon all aspects of the health service in the State. The draft policy has dealt not only with health policy components but also areas such as medical and public health ethics, and policy process and implementation.

Following the suggestions made in the draft policy, the Government set up the high-level committee to make a detailed study of the recommendations of the task force. It has already accepted 64 of them and they are in various stages of implementation.

Mr. Thimmappa said that the focus of the integrated health policy would be "better health for all".

Through the new policy, the Government would also play a facilitating role in harnessing resources and ideas from the private and the voluntary sectors to provide equity, quality, and integrity in health and healthcare in Karnataka".

According to the task force, though a widespread health infrastructure comprising medical institutions has been developed through government policy measures along with a large pool of trained health personnel, "better health for all" remains a mere slogan.

The State has so far evolved policy guidelines through the framework of the five-year Plans, decisions of the Central Council of Health and Family Welfare, Central health legislation, and national health programmes. Over time, separate policies at the national level have been developed for health (1983), education and health sciences (1989), nutrition (1993), drug policy (1988 and 1994), Medical Council of India guidelines (1997), blood banks (1997), health for the elderly (1998), and population (2000).

Health being a State subject, the need for a separate health policy for Karnataka was felt in 2000-2001. Mr. Thimmappa lauded the efforts of the task force in evolving a comprehensive draft policy and said the Government would sincerely attempt to implement the major recommendations of the task force.

Referring to a recommendation made by the task force regarding steps to control AIDS, Mr. Thimmappa said the Government had already initiated several proactive steps to create public awareness on the rapidly growing HIV/AIDS problem.

A major step in this direction was the setting up of district-level voluntary counselling and testing centres (VCICs). This was now being extended to the taluks and to the primary health centres (PHCs) with facilities to provide treatment to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV, Mr. Thimmappa added.

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