He said a serious look at the curriculum for medical education needs to be taken so that doctors are trained to look at health in a holistic manner that goes beyond a narrow clinical and technology-driven approach. Observing that the country faces 'serious challenges' in assuring the health and well-being of people, he said the health indicators continue to be poor and high mortality rates among infants and pregnant women have been a cause of serious concern.
Despite decades of implementing health and family welfare programmes, the country was still faced with a situation where two-third of the health expenditure including purchase of drugs was being borne by the people, he said.
"Our government has decided to continue the National Rural Health Mission for the next five years. We are now proposing a new National Urban Health Mission in order to focus on the health challenges in our towns and cities," he said in the presence of Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and others.
The PM said shortage of doctors, nurses and public health professionals was emerging as one of the most important impediments to providing universal health coverage and this was acute in rural areas, particularly in northern, central and eastern regions of the country.
Against a desirable rate of one doctor per 1,000 population and three nurses per doctor, the country has one doctor per 2,000 people and three nurses for every two doctors, he said. "The Centre and the state governments, particularly those in the under-served regions, need to put their heads together, prepare strategies and implement urgent measures to remedy the situation", he said.
Noting that effective health care involved a multi-layered workforce working cohesively rather than individuals acting in a disconnected manner, he said medical education should accordingly be reconfigured to produce a technically-competent, socially-sensitive, ethically-correct and ready-to-serve health professional, who can respond to the diverse demands of health needs.
"False hierarchies should be shunned. Mutual respect and a sense of shared responsibility should form the basis of effective team work", Singh said, adding that the Medical Council of India was in the process of revising the MBBS curriculum and incorporating training in Community Medicine at all levels. Construction of six AIIMS-like institutions at Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Jodhpur, Patna, Raipur and Rishikesh was in full swing. The medical colleges were expected to be functional from 2012-13 academic session and the hospitals by 2013-14, he said.