On October 9th, the Union Cabinet received an update on the progress made under its flagship health programme, the National Health Mission (NHM).
Official statements have been released praising progress made under the scheme in reducing both infant and maternal mortality rates. In recent years a notable decline was observed in key health and development indicators, including maternal mortality rate (MMR), under five mortality rates (U5MR) and the overall infant mortality rate since the launch of the NHM. At the current rate of decline, India is expected to be able to reach its Sustainability Development Goal (SDG) target sooner than the target of 2030.
A considerable issue which, in recent months, the NHM has set out to tackle is the considerable issue of the low numbers of doctors in certain regions. Rural regions are particularly worse off in this disparity in numbers, with many rural communities suffering a significant lack of access to healthcare. This is despite rural areas being home to seventy percent of the population, but experiencing disproportionate levels of healthcare infrastructure and personnel compared to their urban counterparts.
The NHM is tackling this issue directly. In Bihar, for example, incentives such as higher pay are being offered on 701 doctor positions specifically within regions in which doctors are reluctant to work (typically village settings in which facilities are often lacking). Incentives such as this could be a major tipping point in drawing doctors to smaller communities, though, without improvements to medical infrastructure, their impact may be mitigated.
In addition, the NHM has been attributed to India’s success in combating malaria. Phrased as the “biggest success story amongst malaria-endemic countries in the world,” India has reportedly brought down malaria cases and deaths by 49.09 percent and 50.52 percent respectively in 2017, compared to figures from 2013. India has committed itself to eliminating malaria by 2030.
Vaccination drives have also been highlighted as a focal point of the NHM. Among the new vaccines, the tetanus and adult diphtheria (Td) vaccine replaced tetanus toxoid (TT) vaccine under the Universal Immunisation Programme in 2018. A Measles-Rubella (MR) vaccination drive was conducted in seventeen additional states and the rotavirus vaccine (RVV) was introduced in two additional states.
“In the same period, [the] pneumococcal conjugated vaccine (PCV) was expanded to Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and the remaining districts of Bihar, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh,” said the statement.
While India has a long way to go in addressing its myriad of health concerns, it is worth celebrating its numerous success stories. In analysing specifically where programmes have had the most impact, future policy may be adjusted in order to take the most efficient path forwards — therefore, improving the lives of the maximum number of people.