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|February 24, 1998||
Issues '98/Dr Prem Aggarwal
Declare population control a national emergency
We, the medical professionals in India, want all political parties to include a health manifesto in their agendas and proclaim it in their campaigns. We want political parties and their candidates to treat our growing population as a national emergency.
India will have a population of one billion population very soon, and it is high time political parties committed total support to this single, most important factor deciding the country's fate. Population control should be declared a national emergency, and political parties and the government should put forth maximum commitment and resources to make it a people's movement.
Political parties must treat potable water as a civil right. Providing clean, drinking water to the people should be the responsibility of the state. Fiftyfour per cent of all diseases in India are water borne.
Treat nutrition as child's right. Undernutrition and malnutrition are a malaise in the country. Today's child is tomorrow's nation builder. An unhealthy child will only contribute to an unhealthy future for the country.
We want political parties to treat primary and preventive healthcare as the citizen's right. Despite an excellent development in network of secondary and tertiary health centres, primary health centres have remained only on papers. The frequent outbreak of preventable epidemics and diseases only proves that.
We the want parties that will come to power to increase the budget for the health sector. The health budget has steadily decreased in every successive five year plan from 5.7 per cent of GDP product in the first plan to 1.8 per cent in the current plan.
We want political parties to introduce compulsory health education for the girl child. Indicators have shown that where the literacy rate of the women is higher, the health status has also improved.
Environment and sanitation must be treated as the top national priority. India one of the most polluted countries in the world, with a range of environment-related ailments to the disasters like the Bhopal gas tragedy. A number of epidemics of malaria, typhoid, cholera, gastroenteritis, or dengue have shown the state of India's sanitation and health.
Quackery must be abolished immediately. Whereas the elite or politicians can seek the best treatment at the best places, the poor people of the country remain at the mercy of quacks.
There should be health education for all, especially in the light of the AIDS epidemic that is threatening the fragile health system of the country. The government should come up with programmes to involve the private sector in the national health programmes, particularly to combat the threat of AIDS.
At present, less than 20 per cent of the health service is provided by the government, while the remaining 80 per cent is managed by the private sector. Most government programmes on health fail to take off because of the official apathy towards the private sector involvement in healthcare.
Dr Prem Aggarwal is general secretary of the Indian Medical Association, whose membership comprises 120,000 practising doctors. Dr Aggarwal spoke to George Iype.
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