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Interim Budget 2024: Health Ministry Sees 13% Hike; Expert React Positively To FM Sitharaman’s Announcements

Finance Minister Nimrala Sitharaman made several key announcements for the health sector along with an increase in the budget allocation of nearly 13 per cent to the Health Ministry

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अंतरिम बजट 2024: स्वास्थ्य मंत्रालय के बजट में 13% की बढ़ोतरी; वित्त मंत्री सीतारमण की घोषणाओं पर विशेषज्ञों ने दी सकारात्मक प्रतिक्रिया
Tele Mental Health Assistance and Networking Across States (Tele-MANAS) received an increase in the budget from ₹ 65 crore to ₹ 100 crore

New Delhi: On February 1, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the interim budget for the fiscal year 2024-25. The minister made several key announcements for the health sector along with the increase in the Health Ministry’s budget allocation of nearly 13 percent (12.59 per cent) hike to ₹90,658 crore for this fiscal, from ₹80,517.62 crore (2023-2024). Of the total amount, ₹3001.73 crore has been allocated to the Department of Health Research, the budget for the AYUSH Ministry has been increased from ₹3,000 crore to ₹3,712.49 crore.

Also Read: Take Steps To Establish Nursing, Paramedical Institutes In Medical Colleges: Telangana CM

Among the centrally sponsored schemes, the budget for the National Health Mission has been increased from ₹ 31,550.87 crore to ₹ 31,967 crore, and the allocation for Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojna (PM-JAY) has been hiked from ₹ 6,800 crore to ₹ 7,500 crore. Besides, the allocation for National Digital Health Mission has been increased by 50 crore (from ₹ 200 crore to ₹ 250 crore).

Additionally, Tele Mental Health Assistance and Networking Across States (Tele-MANAS) received an increase in the budget from ₹ 65 crore to ₹ 100 crore. This is a significant hike, Dr Pratima Murthy, Director and Senior Professor of Psychiatry at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), says. The expert lauded the 13 per cent rise in the health ministry budget. Talking about the budget allocation for Tele Mental Health Assistance and Networking Across States (Tele-MANAS) , Dr Murthy said,

Tele-MANAS was started in October 2021, with the objective of providing free tele-mental health services across India, to people in remote or under-served areas. The whole idea is to make the services equitable and accessible. Since October 2021, every state has set up at least one Tele- MANAS. After setting up, now we are driving focus towards the development of the services. In this, one of the things we are focusing on is conducting massive campaign drives in the remote areas, and reaching out to communities and individuals who may not be aware of the services. The increase in the budget would absolutely help us execute these things and accelerate Tele-MANAS.

Also Read: Budget 2024 Highlights: Government Drives Focus On Healthcare Workers, Women And Child Health

Experts On Other Announcements Made For The Health Sector

One of the Interim Budget announcements was to set up more medical colleges by utilising the existing hospital infrastructure. The decision has been hailed by several healthcare and industry experts, with many stating that it demonstrates a ‘holistic commitment’ to health. The Finance Minister also announced the decision to bring schemes for maternal and child care under one comprehensive programme for synergy in implementation.

Lauding the government’s efforts towards increasing the healthcare infrastructure, Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO, Adar Poonawalla told news agency Press Trust of India (PTI),

Setting up more medical colleges and streamlining maternal and child healthcare schemes demonstrate a holistic commitment to health.

Among other announcements, the Finance Minister said that the government will encourage vaccination for girls in the 9-14 year age group for the prevention of cervical cancer. On this initiative, Mr Poonawalla said,

I applaud the announcement to vaccinate girls aged 9-14 against cervical cancer. Let’s pledge to prevent HPV (Human Papillomavirus) and ensure easy access to vaccination.

Also Read: Take Steps To Establish Nursing, Paramedical Institutes In Medical Colleges: Telangana CM

Speaking to NDTV-Dettol Banega Swasth India, about the government’s call to prioritise cervical cancer vaccine among young girls, Harish Trivedi, CEO, Cancer Treatment Service International (CTSI), South Asia,

I often say that every small step is a giant leap in the fight against Cancer. It’s a step in the right direction to reduce the cancer disease burden and loss of life. India detects approximately 1.8 lakh new cervical cancers every year and 50 per cent of these patients succumb to the disease in the same year. Most advanced nations have either eliminated or are on the verge of eliminating cervical cancer through effective vaccination against HPV, a major cause of Cervical cancer. For all women aged between 9 to 14 years, if vaccinated effectively, the disease can be eliminated within one generation.

On the formation of more medical colleges, Mr Trivedi said that it would not only help in better capacity utilisation of the healthcare infrastructure but also solve the accessibility and availability issues for the large underserved population of the country.

Extending health coverage under the Ayushman Bharat scheme for ASHA workers, Anganwadi workers and helpers was another significant provision in the Interim Budget.

Abhishek Kapoor, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Regency Health, said the announcement is a recognition of their invaluable contribution to community health. He added,

This step not only safeguards their well-being but also strengthens the foundation of our healthcare system.

The central government has also decided to expedite the process of upgrading the Anganwadi centre under Saksham Anganwadi and POSHAN 2.0, for improved nutrition delivery, early childhood care, and development. Furthermore, the newly designed U-Win Digital Platform (platform to digitise its Universal Immunisation Programme for children and pregnant women) and intensified efforts of Mission Indradhanush will be rolled out expeditiously across the country, the Finance Minister had announced.

Also Read: 30 Crore Ayushman Cards Created Under Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana

On the rolling out of the immunisation process, Dr Ashutosh Raghuvanshi, MD and CEO, Fortis Healthcare, said that the initiative demonstrates a technology-driven approach to vaccination.

Dr Roderico H. Ofrin, WHO Representative to India, said that steps taken by the Indian government for the health sector will help strengthen systems and healthcare services across the country. He further said,

ASHA workers, Anganwadi workers, and helpers are at the forefront of health and care delivery at the grassroots level. The World Health Organization (WHO) applauds the extension of healthcare coverage to them under Ayushman Bharat. The initiatives announced today – upgrading existing hospital infrastructure to increase medical colleges, harmonisation of maternal and child care implementation, introduction of HPV vaccination for cervical cancer prevention, and the expansion of the U-WIN platform for managing and intensifying immunisation, will enhance the health sector of India.

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which in its Season 10 is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Ayushmann Khurrana. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ populationindigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In a world post COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental well-being, self-care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.

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