March 29, 2006

The Indian government has announced plans for a new network of public health institutes that will aim to improve the country's lagging healthcare system.

"We face a major gap in human resources in health," noted Manmohan Singh, India's prime minister, about the current healthcare situation. "Programs for the poor will degenerate into poor programs if these deficiencies are not corrected.

Under the new plan, five Indian Institutes of Public Health will train up to 10,000 public health professionals every year -- currently, only 300 to 350 such professionals receive training. The current lack of skilled personnel in the state healthcare system has pushed many Indians to seek private treatment, said Singh, which has led to decreased government investment in the healthcare sector -- since the 1990s, this rate has fallen from 1.3 percent of GDP to only 0.9 percent.

The new facilities will be a public-private initiative, said Singh. The first two institutions will be funded jointly by the Indian government, individual philanthropic donations, and nonprofits such as the Gates Foundation.