The Union Budget 2023 presents a mixed outlook for the healthcare sector in South India, with both progressive strides and setbacks.
The pharmaceutical industry in South India, which has a wide manufacturing base, will benefit from the government’s encouragement in Budget 2023. This will help create new job opportunities and stimulate the economy.
The emphasis on technology-aided solutions and expanding the healthcare infrastructure is commendable. Still, adequate allocation in the Budget is crucial in closing the gap in basic health coverage and improving the overall health and well-being of populations in South India.
Further, developing medical devices and manufacturing support can empower the availability of skilled manpower for future medical technology and offer employment opportunities for youth worldwide.
Promoting centres of excellence in pharma research is another great initiative. The centres of excellence in artificial intelligence to be set up for sectors such as health will ensure that the country starts creating tech-based solutions in-house.
Eliminating diseases through smart public health management is welcome if multi-disciplinary training is offered for the public health workforce. However, there has been a non-allocation of resources, structure, and mechanisms for implementing public health cadres in southern states.
While it has been reported that opening new colleges could boost the nursing sector, it is equally prudent to ensure job security and offer better salaries to the existing staff.
Budget 2023 and health research
Focusing on women’s health and economic empowerment is a positive step. Still, comprehensive measures are required to tackle the intergenerational transmission of triple nutritional burdens in women and children.
It is welcome to see sickle cell anaemia in the region being addressed. The Budget 2023’s emphasis on boosting health research and innovation and promoting collaboration between various medical facilities is commendable. Still, greater attention must be given to ensuring that the research meets global standards.
Despite the deceptive increase in the absolute amount (₹88,956 crore, a ₹2,350 crore hike), it is gloomy to see that health sector allocation in percentage points has decreased from 2.2% to 1.98% of budgeted expenditure compared to last year.
Life expectancy and productivity increase when there is access to quality healthcare. Despite the government’s efforts to boost the healthcare and start-up sectors, more needs to be done than what has been promised in Budget 2023 to address the public health issues faced by the southern region.
(Dr Giridhara R Babu is an epidemiologist and public health expert, Indian Institute of Public Health)