Puducherry: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday said the government is proposing a new National Urban Health Mission to focus on the health challenges of people in towns and cities while it will continue the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) for another five years.

Delivering his address at the third convocation of the Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER) here, Singh 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 our cities.”

Referring to NRHM introduced seven years back with the challenges of high mortality rates of infants, pregnant women and where two thirds of health expenditure is met by people, Singh expressed satisfaction that “the scheme has shown that health indicators can be improved with concerted focus on public health systems at primary and secondary levels”.

“Infant and maternal mortality rates have fallen and institutional deliveries have increased. But much more needs to be done and there is a large unfinished agenda of providing affordable health care for all our people,” he remarked.

According to the prime minister, the challenge for policy makers in India is ensuring the proper development of various segments in the health-care system.

He said in India both public and private sector is present in the health sector and he is hopeful of launching a unified National Health Mission.

Citing the shortage of doctors and para medical personnel in the country, he said the shortfall is acute in rural and more particularly in north, central and eastern regions of India.

“The centre and the state governments, particularly state governments of the under-served regions, need to put their heads together, prepare strategies and implement urgent measures to remedy the situation,” he urged.

On the issue of medical education quality, Singh said, “The perception of deterioration cannot be allowed to persist and there should be a credible regulatory and institutional mechanism to develop standards”.

Calling for “a serious look at the medical education curriculum to turn out doctors who look at health in a holistic manner beyond clinical and technology driven approach”, he added that the education of health professionals too must be transformed in precept and practice.

“Interdisciplinary learning and health system connectivity should, therefore, become the hallmarks of contemporary medical education. Apart from the study of health and disease, knowledge of health economics, ethics, patient rights, behaviour change communication and information technology should inform and influence the design and delivery of our healthcare systems,” Singh said.

According to him, “medical education should 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 India’s growing health needs”.

He said the Medical Council of India is in the process of revising the MBBS curriculum and incorporating training in Community Medicine at all levels and also rationalised norms for new medical colleges so that new colleges are opened all over the country.

“Under the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana, construction of 6 AIIMS-like institutions at Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Jodhpur, Patna, Raipur and Rishikesh is in full swing. The medical colleges are expected to be functional from the academic session 2012-13 and the hospitals by 2013-14,” Singh said.

Extending the centre’s help to develop Puducherry into a hub for higher and professional education, Singh urged the Puducherry government to work with the central Tourism Ministry to explore the possibilities of developing responsible and eco-friendly tourism.