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The truth behind health ministry's tall claims

July 24, 2015 10:56 IST

Modi government's health ministry is good at making new claims but there is no visible sign of any new programme being initiated, finds out Manoj K.

During the last week of May 2015, several ministries of the Central Government released performance report-cards, listing their achievements during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s one year in office.

A fact-check of 14 departments and ministries reveals a string of overblown or misleading claims–alongside many new initiatives.

The 2nd part of the series deals with India's 'sick' public health system, where new claims are made with no visible new programmes.

Part I: Data reveals true story about Modi govt's pet initiatives

During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first year in office, the health ministry has relaunched existing programmes and claimed credit for programmes not launched by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government.

Fact Checker took a look at the claims and realities:

Mission Indradhanush, a new immunisation programme: Only the name is new.

Claim: A new programme named Mission Indradhanush will target areas of low immunisation.

Reality: Mission Indradhanush is the new name for Special Immunisation Weeks (SIWs), which have been conducted every year in areas of low immunisation under the Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP).

Special vaccination campaigns have been planned for seven to 10 days in 201 high-focus districts during March-June 2015 under Mission Indradhanush. But this has routinely been done in preceding years.

For example, in 2013-14, four rounds (April, June, July and August) of SIWs were conducted in 31 states and union territories. More than 9.8 million doses of various antigens were administered to children.

Similarly, during 2012-13, SIWs were carried out in low-coverage areas and more than 17.3 million doses of various antigens were administered.

Mission Indradhanush will be world’s largest immunisation drive: It already is.

Claim: Mission Indradhanush, “the largest-ever immunisation drive”, will immunise 8.9 million children.

Reality: UIP is one of the largest programs in the world, according to immunisation summary report jointly published by United Nations Children’s Fund and World Health Organisation.

More than 20 million pregnant women and children were immunised during 2011-12, according to data released by the health ministry.

India Newborn Action Plan (INAP): One of many existing plans.

Claim: INAP aims to end all preventable new-born deaths and still births by 2030.

Reality: INAP is the latest entrant to a long list of existing interventions under the National Health Mission (NHM) to reduce neo-natal and maternal mortality.

A few of these interventions and programmes are:

  • Round-the-clock maternal care services at community health centres and primary health centres promotion of institutional delivery through Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) and Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakram (JSSK) new-born care corners at all health facilities
  • Special new born care units (SNCUs) and new born stabilisation units
  • Home-based new born care through Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs)
  • Prevention and treatment of anaemia with iron and folic acid tablets during pregnancy and lactation prevention of anaemia due to malaria, tackled by long-lasting insecticide nets and insecticide-treated bed nets
  • Name-based tracking of pregnant women to ensure ante-natal, intra-natal and post-natal care integrated management of neo-natal and childhood illnesses
  • Universal immunisation programme for about 135 million children against seven vaccine-preventable diseases through nine million immunisation sessions each year
  • Capacity building of healthcare providers through training of nurses under NHM
  • Engagement of more than 0.89 million  ASHAs village health and nutrition days
  • Reproductive maternal new-born child-health+adolescent interventions in 184 high priority districts

The two targets proposed in INAP are (a) reducing preventable new-born deaths and; (b) reducing preventable still-births to single digits, fewer than 10 per 1,000 live births by 2030 (as against 22 per 1,000 live births today).

India’s first mental-health policy launched: Work began in 2011.

Claim: Launched the country’s first-ever mental health policy.

Reality: The work of framing a national mental-health policy began in April 2011, following a resolution on mental disorders adopted at the World health Assembly. The government constituted a policy group to frame a mental-health policy, launched in October 2014.

Manoj K is a graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, and the founder of the Centre for Governance and Development. He has a special interest in transparency and accountability in governance and has spearheaded several projects on these subjects. He can be contacted at manoj@cgdindia.org.

Manoj K