The 1991 health policy was enacted at a time when the health sector was grappling with infectious and communicable diseases like diarrhoea, dysentery, cholera, malaria, among others. Therefore, the major concern of this policy was to tackle this problem. However, with the course of time, and in the wake of ever-changing health facilities and new
inventions in the health sector, these types of communicable diseases are no more the bigger issues as it was in the past.
There has been a paradigm shift in the trend of diseases and unlike the scenario two decades ago, people now are suffering more from non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, blood pressure. Therefore, it would not be an exaggeration to term the health policy a failure, as it lacks government’s stands and
clear visions in dealing with new diseases that have been emerging with the changing time.
In this regard, realising the urgency to immediately reform the existing policy formulated two decades ago, we, as a part of the government’s organisation to cope with the
challenges in health sector, have already initiated a process to form a new health policy. Homework on how to address new challenges and come with appropriate solutions has already started. Let’s hope that the government will succeed in forming a new policy in near future.
But at the same time, people should also be aware that the job of Health Ministry is not just about dealing with the diseases. My experience says that the main concern of the Health Ministry should be focused on keeping the people healthy, rather than, giving them medicines to consume after they are already sick. Famous English adage “Prevention is better than cure” fits in with this.
Proper sanitation facilities, food safety, safe drinking water and some other issues are the pre-requisites that are required to make sure the Health Ministry is doing its best to prevent the diseases (especially non-communicable diseases).
However, the problem here is that the works related to sanitation, drinking water and food security are divided among various ministries. This means, the overall work of keeping the people healthy at present has been divided among various fragmented government stakeholders, thereby making it difficult to execute things from health point of view.
In my recent visit to Brasil, I found one interesting solution to this problem. Like in the foreign countries, we can also set up a new body or a separate council (health council) under the Prime Minister comprising representatives from all the ministries, directly or indirectly associated with the health sector. A council formed as such can work miracles in keeping the people healthy by giving importance to the prevention of diseases rather than distributing health facilities and medicines.
Although this solution is not in the Nepal Health Sector Programme-2 (NHSP-2), which is still in the process of formulation, the Health Ministry with the consent of the minister, is trying to take a proposal to form a health council to the Prime Minister.
If everything goes well, we will soon be moving ahead, implementing an effective NHSP-2, with the help of a health council, an independent body that will aim at keeping the people healthy in terms of proper food habit, drinking water facilities and safe sanitation practices.
—Dr Mishra is the secretary of MoHP
(As told to Ankit Adhikari and Manish Gautam)