New Delhi: “Health For All’ aims to make healthcare services accessible and affordable for all. It means that health is to be brought within reach of everyone. This is also significant in order to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 3). India’s healthcare spends for health as a percentage of the GDP has been around 4 per cent and it has fallen in the last 20 years to around 2 per cent. Here are some of the key initiatives taken by the government in 2023 to achieve its goal of ‘Health For All’.
Ayushman Bhav Campaign: The Centre launched a health initiative ‘Ayushman Bhav’ in September, with the core objective of extending comprehensive healthcare coverage to rural areas and ensuring no one is left behind. This synergistic approach aims to saturate coverage of healthcare services through its three components:
Ayushman Apke Dwar 3.0: Under this, the government provides Ayushman cards to the eligible beneficiaries enrolled under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojna (PMJAY) scheme and ensures that more individuals have access to essential healthcare services.
Ayushman Melas: The Ayushman Melas at the Health and Wellness Centres (HWCs) and Community Health Centres (CHCs) facilitates the creation of ABHA (Ayushman Bharat Health Account) IDs (Health IDs) and issuance of Ayushman Bharat Cards to the people residing in the rural India. Additional services provided include early diagnosis, comprehensive primary health care services, teleconsultation with specialists, and free medications. About 9.9 lakh health melas have been organised under the campaign since September. The number of people who have received free medicines stand at 468.81 lakh, while 372.61 lakh received free diagnostics services.
Ayushman Sabhas: The Ayushman Sabha is a community-level assembly, led by the Village Health and Sanitation Committee (VHSNC) in rural areas or the Ward Committee/Municipal Advisory Committee (MAS) in the urban wards. The Sabhas ensure comprehensive health coverage and optimal healthcare service delivery, by distributing the Ayushman cards, generating ABHA IDs, and raising awareness about several healthcare schemes and disease conditions, such as non-communicable diseases, tuberculosis, sickle cell disease, and blood and organ donation drives.
Talking about the Ayushman Bhav campaign, Union Health Minister Dr Mansukh Mandaviya, said,
The campaign is aligned with the vision of creating ‘Healthy Villages’ and ‘Healthy Gram Panchayats’, and laying the foundation for achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in the country.
National Sickle Cell Anaemia Elimination Mission: In July 2023, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched National Sickle Cell Anaemia Elimination Mission (NSCEM), with the target of eradicating the disease by 2047. This is the first-of-its-kind initiative addressing the disease that is prevalent among the tribal communities of India. Under the mission, the beneficiaries are also given Sickle Cell Genetic Status Cards, for the purpose of premarital and pre-conceptional counselling by matching the cards of prospective matches.
Talking about the mission, Dr Mandaviya said,
Under the Sickle Cell Anaemia Elimination Mission, the government has decided to screen seven crore tribal populations residing in the 278 districts in 12 states in the next three years.
India’s Immunisation Programme: This year, the government ran a flagship immunisation campaign, called ‘Intensified Mission Indradhanush 5.0’ (IMI 5.0), with special focus on Measles and Rubella vaccination coverage among the missed-out and dropped out children and pregnant women across the country. The aim was to eliminate both these infections by 2023. The mission was concluded in three rounds in August, September and October, covering more than 34 lakh children and 6 lakh pregnant women. This is the first year that the flagship campaign was conducted across all districts in the country, and was extended to include children up to five years of age. The previous campaigns included children only up to two years old.
Malaria Vaccine: One of the biggest wins this year in the healthcare sector was the WHO’s approval of the malaria vaccine, R21/Matrix-M, developed by the Serum Institute of India (SII), Pune and the University of Oxford, after it met the safety, quality and effectiveness standards.
Talking about the development and India’s progress in the last one decade, Dr. Neeraj Dhingra, Former Director, National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP), and Member, WHO Strategic and Technical Advisory Group on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) said,
India has made tremendous progress in mitigating malaria in the last decade, ever since the WHO gave a clarion call for the disease’s elimination in 2015. We developed the National Framework for Malaria Elimination (NFME) in 2016, through an extensive consultative process. The current development will accelerate the government’s existing efforts in eradicating Malaria and achieving its 2030 Zero Malaria Goal.
National TB (Tuberculosis) Elimination Programme Progress: With the goal of achieving elimination of Tuberculosis by 2025, five years ahead of the global goal of eradicating the disease, i.e., Sustainable Development Goals 2030, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare launched the National TB Elimination Programme (NTEP) in 2022. Under the programme, the government established a Ni-kshay Mitra portal, for individuals to register themselves and adopt TB patients to take care of them. In 2023, more than 9.55 lakh patients will be adopted.
In addition to the above programmes/initiatives, the government has recently launched Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra (VBSY) on November 15. The purpose of the Yatra is to raise awareness about the government’s development policies and schemes among the people, and provide benefits of the scheme to the eligible population. Ayushman Card creation and delivery have been selected for the on-spot services to be offered during the Yatra. As of December 20, a total of 96.03 lakh Ayushman Cards have been created.
The Yatra, which is organised from the third week of November 2023 to January 2024, will also showcase the national TB Elimination Programme and Sickle Cell Anaemia Elimination Mission. Further, health camps are also being organised, wherein screening and referral for TB, Non-Communicable Diseases and Sickle Cell Disease, Ni-kshay Mitra Registration, and creation of Ayushman Cards are being conducted.
Talking about the progress made so far, Union Health Minister Dr Mandaviya said the government has been making efforts to ensure the provision of healthcare services to the remotest parts of the country, by establishing one health and wellness centre for a population of 6,000-7,000. In the last nine years, the centre has established 1,60,000 primary health and wellness centres.
NDTV-Dettol Banega Swasth India team also spoke to health experts to know how to accelerate the existing schemes and additional interventions required to achieve the goal of ‘Health For All’.
Padma Shri Dr Ravi Kannan, a surgical oncologist from Chennai, and Ramon Magsaysay Awardee, said that the schemes like TB elimination plays an important role, however, ensuring the reach of the different initiatives to the rural areas is what the government needs to focus on.
Padma Shri Dr Dhananjay Diwakar Sagdeo, Hematologist and Chief Medical Officer Swami Vivekananda Medical Mission, listed down three important aspects the government needs to focus on to achieve the goal of eradicating sickle cell anaemia by 2047.
The majority of our health systems are catering more to urban areas. We need a concrete plan in place to take our healthcare system to the rural areas. The government has taken a great initiative of establishing primary healthcare centres in rural areas, but building infrastructure is not enough, strengthening them is important by ensuring the availability of doctors, paramedical staff. Third is the increasing the pool of community health workers, also known as Swasthya Mitra, to bridge the communication gap between the rural people and the doctors.
Speaking to the NDTV team at a health conclave, Professor Rajendra Pratap Gupta, Founder, Health Parliament & former advisor to the Union Health Minister, spoke about increasing the availability of mobile medical units and tele medicines in remote areas.
The rural areas often face challenges in receiving emergency care. Availability of mobile units and tele medicines services will enable that.
Dr Sagdeo highlighted the importance of deploying Multi-Purpose Health Worker (M.P.H.W.), to provide healthcare services to the underserved populations.
As a collective thought, the experts said that implementation and acceleration of the government schemes are significant, so that every individual residing in the remotest part of the country could reap their benefits and achieve the goal of ‘Health For All’.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which in its Season 10 is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Ayushmann Khurrana. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In a world post COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental well-being, self-care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.