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WHO’s polio-free certification high point in health sector

Eradication of polio from India was a high point in the health sector during 2014, which also saw some improvement in the country’s health indices like maternal and infant mortality rate though there was a lot of ground still to be covered.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision in November to change Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, a practicing doctor and a former health minister of Delhi, surprised many.

His replacement, J P Nadda is considered a close aide of Modi and has been rather low key compared to Vardhan’s penchant for almost daily statements.

Nadda is busy giving final touches to the NDA government’s ambitious National Health Assurance Mission, which aims to provide free health insurance to the poor. It is likely to be rolled out next year.

There were mixed signals from the new government against the use of tobacco as after hiking cigarette prices it did not enforce its earlier proposal to ban sale of loose cigarettes and make tougher anti-smoking laws.

The saffron party’s favourite health projects like promotion of ayurveda and yoga received official push. Government cleared National Ayush Mission (NAM) to address gaps in health services in vulnerable and far-flung areas of the country.

Government has also approved setting-up of 18 new ayurveda colleges this year, against permission for only one such institution in the past three years.

The Centre also came up with a proposal of opening AIIMS- like institutions in most states.

India’s biggest recognition in the field during the year was seen in March when the World Health Organisation gave it a polio-free certification for reporting no new cases for three years.

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