The process of finalizing the new Health Bill has been initiated by the Union Ministry of Health and Family as well as other relevant Ministries.
The Government of India’s new Health Act Bill will contain various provisions including the establishment of a four tier health administration system with well-defined powers for the establishment of a framework public health as well as the definition of a lockdown.
Once the draft bill for the new health law is ready, it will be placed in the public domain for consultation before being sent to the Union Cabinet. The National Public Health Bill is expected to be introduced in the monsoon session of Parliament.
What is the new National Public Health Law?
The Union Government’s proposed National Public Health Act has been in the works since 2017 and once enacted will replace the 125-year-old Epidemic Diseases Act 1897. The new national public health law will also cover the public. health emergencies caused by natural disasters, bioterrorism, chemical or nuclear attacks or terrorism.
Why is the new National Public Health Act important?
The National Public Health Bill will address updated, comprehensive and science-based provisions on surveillance, public health emergencies, disease notification, disasters and bioterrorism.
The new national public health law is also important because the existing law on epidemic diseases does not contain provisions for the management of pandemics such as the coronavirus.
What is a 4 Tier Health Administration Architecture System?
The new health law bill proposes a 4-tier health administration architecture system. Under it, there will be multi-sector national, state, district and bloc public health authorities that will have well-defined powers and functions to deal with public health emergencies.
4 Tier Health Administration Architecture System: How will it work?
While the National Public Health Authority would be headed by the Ministry of Health, it will be chaired by the Ministers of State for Health.
District Collectors will lead the next level and Block Units will be led by Medical Superintendents and Block Physicians. The authorities mentioned under the 4-tier health administration architecture system will also have the authority to take measures for the prevention of non-communicable diseases as well as emerging infectious diseases.
New national law on public health: 5 things to know
1. The new National Public Health Bill will provide for the creation of public health frameworks at the national and state levels.
2. The New Health Law Bill has defined various measures such as quarantine, isolation and lockdown, which have been invoked from time to time by central and state governments for the management of COVID.
3. The new National Public Health Law defines a lockdown as a “restriction subject to certain conditions or the total prohibition of the use of any means of transport” on inland waters or roads.
4. The draft new public health law also provides for several situations in which a public health emergency can be declared. These include bioterrorism; natural disaster; the appearance of an infectious agent previously controlled or eradicated from a chemical attack; a nuclear attack or an accident.
5. While India’s public health bill has been pending for years, it has only gained momentum in recent months.
National Public Health Act: background
In 2017, the Indian Ministry of Health released the Public Health (Prevention, Control and Management of Epidemics, Bioterrorism and Disasters) Bill 2017.
Later in September 2020, then Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan announced in the Indian Parliament that a government would formulate a new National Public Health Act.