A significant fall in infant mortality rates,the longest polio-free period in the country,lowest decadal growth of population in 90 years marked the health sector in 2011.
The infant mortality rate (IMR) dropped to 47 per 1000 live births from 50 in 2009 and 58 in 2007.
The introduction of Bivalent Oral Polio Vaccine in 2010 paid dividends as a lone case of wild polio virus type-1 was reported from Howrah in West Bengal,brightening India’s chances of attaining polio-free status. The polio eradication efforts won praises from WHO.
Due to slack progress on immunisation,the government launched a unique mother and child tracking system. Another scheme called Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakram was launched to provide no expense delivery including cesarean section,food,medicines and consumables,for pregnant women attending government facilities.
In spite of these initiatives,the health ministry was rocked by shocking crib deaths in West Bengal and over 500 child deaths due to Acute Encephalitis Syndrome in Uttar Pradesh.
Health sector eroded human development gains as the index rose only 13 per cent. Even the UN Global Human Development Report 2011 launched in November revealed that India loses 34 per cent of its HDI value when internal inequalities in health are calculated. The report placed India at the 134th position in HDI rankings for 187 nations.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared the 12th Plan as a health plan and promised to raise budgetary allocations for the sector.
The government did attempt to increase human resources in health in 2011 as the Medical Council of India fast tracked approvals and allowed the establishment of 21 new medical colleges. Additional seats were approved leading to the creation of 4542 new MBBS seats and 2350 new PG seats in the existing 335 medical colleges which now have 41,569 MBBS and 21181 PG seats.
But MCI’s most significant proposal,that of conducting a common entrance test for admission to all MBBS courses across India from 2012,remained unfulfilled as the government told the Supreme Court that it could not hold the exam as state governments had voiced their inability to join.
On the legislative front,the much awaited National Council for Human Resources in Health Bill was tabled in Parliament that will regulate medical education.
The Transplantation of Human Organs Amendment Bill was,however,passed expanding the definition of organ donors to include grandparents of the recipient.
New food safety and standards rules were also notified making punishments for food adulteration extremely stringent and covering vast categories of packaged foods under food quality laws.
The Government came up with improved guidelines for bclinical trials but experts feel nothing less than a law can regulate the sector.
Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad created some flutter with his remark at the National HIV Convention of Parliamentarians in Delhi,where he described sexual relations between men as “unnatural” and a “disease”,prompting visiting UNAIDS chief Michel Sidibe to distance himself from the statement and issue a clarification in support of men who have sex with men.