Pointing out that India was committed to achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) as articulated in its National Health Policy, Union Health Minister J P Nadda said “India has fast-tracked many initiatives aimed at achieving all the core tenets of Universal Health Coverage like strengthening health systems, improving access to free medicines and diagnostics and reducing catastrophic healthcare spending.”
As part of translating the vision, he said that the government had recently launched an ambitious programme called ‘Ayushman Bharat’ i.e. Long Live India. He said this while addressing the 8th BRICS Health Ministers’ Meeting at Durban.
“The programme rests on the twin pillars of Health and Wellness Centres for provision of comprehensive primary healthcare services and National Health Protection Mission for secondary and tertiary care that aims to cover around 100 million families,” Nadda said.
Further he said India affirmed strong support for TB cooperation plan in every aspect as agreed upon in the 6th BRICS Health Ministers’ meeting held in Delhi in 2016 and in the first High-Level Meeting of the UN General Assembly on Ending Tuberculosis. He said that to improve healthcare, there is a need for increasing accessibility of affordable, quality, effective and safe drugs, vaccines and diagnostics for TB patients. “I would like to state that India is committed to eliminating TB by 2025,” the Union Health Minister further emphasized.
Highlighting the accomplishments of India in the health sector, Shri Nadda stated that India’s achievement in reducing the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) by 77 percent from 556 per 100000 live births in 1990 to 130 per 100 000 live births in 2016 was commended by Regional Director, WHO SEARO.
“This achievement puts the country on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target of MMR below 70 by 2030. I would like to mention schemes like Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyan, allowing women access to antenatal check-ups, obstetric gynaecologists and to track high-risk pregnancies, etc., and Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakram,” Nadda said.
In the address, he said that to reduce the burden of NCDs, India has already initiated universal screening for prevention and management of five common NCDs including hypertension, diabetes and three common cancers of oral cavity, breast and cervix at pan India level. He also mentioned that India has started a unique initiative called AMRIT Deendayal pharmacies, an acronym for ‘Affordable Medicines & Reliable Implants for Treatment’ – Centres that provide medicines for cancer & cardiovascular diseases and cardiac implants at significantly reduced prices. “We must, therefore, renew our resolve and commitment to fight NCDs together on the BRICS platform, through R &D and innovative strategies,” Nadda said.
The Health Minister said that the spate of recent global public health emergencies like Ebola, Zika has highlighted the need for greater public health preparedness and coordinated response. Sharing India’s experience in containing Nipah outbreak in Kerala, Shri Nadda complimented the team for their untiring efforts and coordinated response for successful containment of the outbreak. “I would like to stress upon the importance of implementation of IHR (2005), strengthened surveillance, enhanced laboratory capacity and multi sectoral approach,” he stressed.
Nadda further said that there is need to promote strategies for use of traditional or alternative forms of medicine, like Ayurveda in India and the Chinese traditional remedies.“It is important that within the framework of BRICS, we carry out not only an exchange of technologies and the development of joint ventures, but also the co-generation of knowledge because, only together can we solve the most significant health problems,” said the Health Minister added while reiterating the need for enhanced cooperation.