The Department of Health Research (DHR) was created as a separate department under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in 2007. It became fully functional from November 2008 with the appointment of its first secretary. The aim of the DHR is to introduce modern health technologies to the people through research and innovations related to diagnosis, treatment methods, and vaccines for preventions.The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) comes under the overall ambit of the DHR.
However, funding to this crucial department has been erratic. India’s health research Budget is very small. The total health research Budget of the US is 2.2 per cent of the GDP. In UK, it is 1.7 per cent of the GDP. In India, it is only 0.02 per cent of the GDP, whereas it needs to be around 5 per cent of the health Budget, given the size of India’s population and the challenges.
On the other hand, there is the problem of the current infrastructure being able to absorb higher levels of funding. The department’s projected demand is nowhere close to 5 per cent of the total health Budget (Rs 83,000 crore in Budget Estimates 2022-23).
The Parliament’s Standing Committee on Health heard depositions and has recommended in its this year’s Budget session report, that arms of the Department of Health Research, including the ICMR, be beefed up. It acknowledged ICMR’s work on research into vaccines against epidemics like the Nipah and Zika virus, and more recently Covid-19, but placed on record the need to extend systematic outreach of the ICMR and its agencies.