Stating that progress in health sector was critical for India's emergence as a key player on the international scene, President Pranab Mukherjee said that a high quality national health system that can be used by both the rich and the poor is the need of the hour.
Addressing the 40th annual convocation of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) here, Mukherjee said: "Progress in the health sector is key to India's future place of prominence in the world.
"The nation's productivity depends on the health and well-being of its citizens. Economic growth that does not go hand-in-hand with reduction in avoidable mortality and ill-health is neither sustainable nor desirable," he said.
"It is unacceptable that almost 80 percent of the expenditure on healthcare by our people is met by personal, out of pocket, payment. I am shocked to note that as many as four crore people of our country plunge into poverty each year due to expenses on medical treatment. Yet, we should remember that the health services for the poor cannot be poor health services. We need to craft a high quality national health system that is used by the poor and the rich alike," Mukherjee said.
The president said that the country should aim at attaining universal health coverage in the next two to three five-year plan periods.
"I visualise public spending on health rising to 2.5 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) by the end of the Twelfth (Five Year) Plan period," he said.
Highlighting the need for more nurses, doctors, paramedics and health workers, the president stressed the need to decentralise planning and implementation of healthcare to the district and sub-district levels.
"We need to take health services closer to the homes... the foundation of India's national health system must be strong, sensitive and efficient," he said.