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Special panel on health formed

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI JAN. 9. The Centre has set up a special national commission consisting of leading economists and health experts to formulate a strategy to address health-related issues in a more effective manner.

The panel, which will be co-chaired by the Finance Minister, Jaswant Singh, and the Health Minister, Shatrughan Sinha, is expected to come out with its report in a year.

The move comes as a follow up to the report of an international commission on health and macroeconomics, set up by the WHO under the chairmanship of noted economist, Jeffrey D. Sachs.

The global panel, which consisted of 18 internationally renowned macroeconomists, economic policy makers and public health specialists, had clearly brought out with evidence that it was health which preceded economic development and not the other way around.

The report, which was presented to the WHO last year, had strongly recommended that every country set up such panels to look at the linkages between health and macro-economics, so that they could develop action plans taking into account the specific conditions prevailing in each of them.

Speaking at a function got up here today to mark the launch of the first of its kind commission, Mr. Sinha said that apart from economists and health experts it would include representatives of international institutions, NGOs and members of civil society. The panel would analyse the country's health problems in depth and devise "implementable" strategies, he added.

Dr. Sachs pointed out that less that one per cent of India's gross domestic product was spent on health and said that at this level the country could never achieve the economic and social goals it had set for itself.

He emphasised the need for the developed countries to provide generous assistance to the developing world and also urged for greater attention to the growing threat posed by HIV/ AIDS to economic development of the world as a whole.

Making an indirect reference to the HIV situation in India, Dr. Sachs warned that what was considered as a manageable HIV incidence rate of two to three per cent now may, within a short time, increase to an uncontrollable 10 to 15 per cent if proper measures were not to taken to curb it.

Mr. Singh, who was scheduled to participate in the inaugural function, was, according to a senior Health Ministry official, held up because of urgent discussions with the Prime Minister about a meeting of the Union Cabinet held later in the evening.

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