Health Policies and Laws

Session Report
Divyansh Dwivedi

LPPYF Law and Public Policy Youth Fellowship is an Online National Summer School Program, a Two-Month Online Immersive Legal Awareness & Action Research Certificate Training Course and Internship Program, from June-August 2023 by IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute. An informative and interactive panel discussion on “Health Policies and Laws” was held by Prof. Sanghamitra Acharya, the chairperson professor at Centre of Social Medicines and Community in Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. 

She enlightened us about the legal safeguards, policies, and briefs based out of laws in flow, and how do health policies intersect with laws in force. She further laid her attention on how health has been an important part of our fundamental rights. 

Health and Law- Bridging the Gap

Prof. Acharya laid her attention on how the gap between developing and developed countries has been an ardent obstacle in accepting social and economic reforms as a way of change. It is imperative to note that addressing legal safeguards has been a ray of change during the recent times. She insisted that how we can try to bridge the gap between what has been promised by the State and what has been actually delivered. 

The Alma Ata Declaration of 1978 has been a major milestone in filed of health in 20th century. It promoted the idea of healthy living of citizens and development of healthcare of under developing nations. It raised the notion of making healthcare an imperative subject. Through this declaration, the beginning point for government to make health policies, and to formulate and design a primary healthcare initiative. She further added, that even ministry of health recognized the need for primary health care. 

Individual and State- Interdependence for healthcare

In year 2000, the ministry through a program named, Health for all, 2000, appointed a committee to review the need for growth of health sector of India, which acted as one of the most imperative steps in appointing a committee towards scaling up the performance of health sector, and review the needs that still persists. She further enlightened us about the National Health Policy, 1983, which laid down the foundation of prioritizing the needs of society in terms of healthcare. The addressing of prerequisites of healthcare was brought into attention, and efforts to address them were laid down.

The policy was a positive step for development of an effective healthcare system for underprivileged and poor. Prevailing of primary healthcare services, rehabilitative approach, and endless efforts to overcome healthcare demerits were the foundation of the national health policy. 

However, though the policy was a great step, and the efforts were being put in too, but the efforts were not reaching their end goal. As a result, additional strategies for more effective formulation became necessary. Further Prof. Acharya told us about the intersection of individual healthcare and responsibility of State towards fulfilling them. Article 25 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly states that everyone has a right of adequate living, vis a vis having shelter, food, water and clothes to maintain a standard of living is more of a necessity than a luxury.

It further states that old age, sickness, or any other such case should be exposed to primitive healthcare. The provision was liberal, but of dire importance. She further added that relevant rights of people should be respected as a universal right of health and no discrimination should be welcomed. 

India as a nation is embedded with different set of individuals of different states. A series of instruments in addressing health in one or another way always persists. However, all the ways should have one thing in common, that is to respect the health rights of every individual. States should respect women healthcare, and talk about hygiene and health topics that are still considered as taboo in many sections of society.

State has to ensure that children enjoy the best type of healthcare as they are most vulnerable to health deterioration. The framework of Indian Constitution in relation with the backdrops of the International Regulations need to be given more attention. It is the responsibility of the State to prioritize public health. 

Prof. Acharya told that how post- independence laws has been progressive, and have been making attempts to address public health, while being in the shell of peacemaking tactics. The role of ministry has become more imperative in thinking how comprehensively public health and law can be evolved. The ministry has to take cognigance of the gaps and think of solutions to fill gaps. National Medical Commission Amendment Bill, passed on Dec 29, 2022 gives us two important pointers, firstly, that all legal matter pertaining to medical institutions, the jurisdiction will lie at the National Capital. Secondly, the realms of ethics and negligence should be followed in cases of medical healthcare. 

While presenting her concluding lines, Prof. Acharya added that there are many mandates, and provisions in place to ensure that healthcare has been distributed effectively. However, the need to bring in more and effective laws for other things that cause health hazards is the need of the hour. For example, Slaughterhouses, hazardous factories that deteriorate the health of workers engaged in such places. We still remain one of the lowest contributors when it comes to health. In actual there has been some changes since the last year, but it has not reached the place where it was intended to reach till this time. Constant efforts, both by individuals, and State will act as a major step in boosting the healthcare. 

Divyansh is a Research Intern at IMPRI.

Youtube Video of Inaugural session for Law and Public Policy Youth Fellowship Programme:

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