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Health Policies: Who Are the Real Decision-Makers?

M3 India Newsdesk Apr 10, 2017

Health matters are allocated to state jurisdiction in the Indian Constitution.



However, state and central government overlap with respect to medical education, practice, regulation of food, drugs, population control, family planning, prevention of infectious diseases, and vital statistics such as birth and death registrations leads to confusion regarding accountability. 


The ability of medical professionals to influence the health of the nation is largely dependent on government policies and laws.  Health policies are established by government entities composed of medical professionals and non-medical administrators.


Following are some of the key departments and officials making health policies in India:


Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) (Central)


  • Two key departments: Department of Health and Family Welfare, Department of Medical Research
  • Governs medical education and health and frames the health policy
  • Current key office bearers include: 
    • Shri Jagat Prakash Nadda (BA, LLB), Cabinet minister
    • 2 junior ministers: Faggan Singh Kulaste (MA, BEd, LLB) and Anupriya Patel (MA Psy, MBA)
    • Shri C.K. Mishra, Secretary of Health and Family welfare
    • Additional secretaries and Joint secretaries

Director General of Health Services (DGHS) (Central)

  • Provides technical advice on all medical and public health matters
  • Oversees implementation of various health schemes
  • Current key office bearers include: Dr Jagadish Prasad(M.S., M.Ch., D.N.B., FIACS)

State Ministry of Health (State)

  • Formulates state health policy and specific to each state
  • Manages state-operated health institutions and hospitals

Indian Council of Medical  Research (ICMR) (Central)

  • Autonomous council within the Ministry of Health
  • Responsible for health and scientific research activities  
  • Current key office bearers include Soumya Swaminathan, Director General (MD, Pediatrics)

 The National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog) (Central) 

  • Designs strategic and long-term health and medical related government policies and programs.
  • Current key office bearers include: PM Shri Narendra Modi, Chairperson

 Some key health initiatives introduced over the last decade are:  


Rural Health Mission (NRHM) was launched in 2005 to provide accessible, affordable and quality healthcare to the rural population. NRHM main goals include public health.delivery system, human resources management, community involvement, decentralisation, rigorous monitoring and evaluation, the convergence of health-related programmes from village level upwards, innovations, flexible financing, and interventions to improve health indicators. 


Health Foundation of India (PHFI) was launched in 2006 to strengthen India’s public health institutional and systems capability, provide knowledge for better health outcomes based on collaborations amongst Indian and international academia, state and central governments, and civil society groups. 


Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) was introduced, in 2013, across all medical colleges at undergraduate and post-graduate levels.


Replacement of the Medical Council of India (MCI) with a National Medical Commission (NMC) to develop medical education policies. NMC will comprise of state and union territories representatives and a Medical advisory council.


Leading medical professionals often speak out against government over-reach

For example, Indian Medical Association (IMA) supports amendments to the existing MCI Act to make it transparent, accountable, robust, and self-sufficient rather than replacing MCI with bureaucrat-controlled NMC. A national health portal (NHP) serves as the official source of health-related information and policies. 

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