India's health minister, Dr C P Thakur, last week unveiled the draft of a new proposed national health policy - the first in 18 years, New Scientist reports this week.
The document admits various lapses and distortions that have harmed the healthcare system. As a result, it says, "the morbidity and mortality levels in the country are still unacceptably high."
Low investments in health are indicated as being the primary reason for poor quality and an uneven healthcare delivery system across the country. Less than 20 per cent of the population seeks outpatient services and less than 45 per cent use inpatient treatment in public hospitals - despite the fact that poor people seek private health services at the cost of essential expenditure, such as nutrition, the report continued.
The current annual per capita health expenditure is 160 rupees (3.66 euros). Mr Thakur says that under the new policy the aggregate health expenditure in the health sector would be increased to 6 per cent of the gross domestic product by 2010 (from the current 5.2 per cent).
India's draft national health policy can be accessed here.