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India marches on to deliver - Prime Minister Modi’s vision of ‘Universal and Affordable Health for All’

National:Last week, India achieved two major milestones under World’s Largest Vaccination Drive-by administering 2.5 crore COVID-19 vaccine doses in a single day on 17th September, the highest in a day, globally, and by crossing cumulative coverage of more than 80 crore doses. India surpassed these seemingly insurmountable benchmarks to become the country with the highest number of people in the world with the first dose of COVID-19 vaccination. These landmarks could be achieved due to the tireless efforts of our frontline health workers, teams of committed officials across States/UTs and MoHFW, the private sector, and the partner organizations, under the visionary leadership of our (Hon’ble) Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi ji, who had right from the start of the COVID-19 outbreak pressed upon with great urgency to protect every Indian from the perils of this pandemic by scaling the vaccination program.

 In line with the conviction that a healthy nation leads to an increase in the country’s productivity, creating a cascading effect to lead to better overall socio-economic outcomes, the Union Government has allocated Rs. 2.23 lakh crore for health in the budget for 2021-22, a significant 137% increase over the previous year’s budget. This reaffirms the Modi Government’s commitment to deliver quality healthcare to every Indian and to bring about a transformation in India’s public healthcare sector.

Ever since 2014, we have made the health of our people the topmost priority of the government. Accordingly, we initiated the ambitious Mission Indradhanush, launched in Dec 2014, resulting in more than 90% immunization coverage in India. This Mission was further intensified in 2019-20, to reach vulnerable and high-risk groups, despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to leave no one behind. We are proud that since its launch, 3.86 crore children and nearly 97 lakh pregnant women have been vaccinated under Mission Indradhanush.

We announced the National Health Policy (NHP) as an expression of a broad overarching reform agenda in 2017, with the commitment of universal health coverage.

Constantly guided by PM Modi ji’s vision for providing affordable healthcare to the disadvantaged, the Ayushman Bharat program was rolled out with two components - Health and Wellness Centres (AB-HWCs) which aims to deliver health and wellbeing through comprehensive preventive, promotive, curative, rehabilitative, and palliative primary healthcare services that are universal and free to communities in rural and urban areas. The changes in demography and disease burdens have led to designing new programs such as Eat Right India and Fit India, with a focus on AYUSH including promoting Yoga. It is a matter of great pride that more than 77,000 AB-HWCs are functional in the country, and we are on track to achieve the target for operationalizing 150,000 AB-HWCs by December 2022. The second pillar of Ayushman Bharat, i.e., the Pradhan Mantri Jan Aarogya Yojana (PM-JAY), was also launched in 2018, to provide affordable quality healthcare to 50 crore Indian citizens including 10 crore underprivileged families with insurance cover of Rs 5 lakhs per family per year, for providing social protection against catastrophic health expenditure on account of hospitalization. PMJAY is one of the largest health insurance schemes in the world. Till date, over 16 crore Ayushman cards, 2 crore hospital admissions, and treatment worth Rs 26,000 crore has been provided under PM-JAY to the underprivileged.

We firmly believe that healthy mothers and children are the bedrock of any society. In the last five years, because of accelerated implementation of various programs and benefits targeted towards women and children, including Pradhan Mantri Matru Suraksha Yojana, Surakshit Matritva Aashwasan (SUMAN), Laqshya, Mission Parivar Vikas, India’s maternal and child mortality rates have continued to decline at a much faster pace than the rates of decline globally. The Maternal Mortality Ratio has declined from 167 in 2011-13 to 113 in 2016-18 (as per the Sample Registration Survey) and the Under 5 Mortality Rate has declined from 52 in 2012 to 36 in 2018. With these efforts, we have put our country to achieve the SDGs of maternal and child health, well ahead of the SDG timeline.

Delivering universal health care requires a well-equipped health workforce in sufficient numbers and equipped with the skills and competencies needed to provide high-quality, people-centered health care. The move to replace the Medical Council of India (MCI) with the National Medical Commission (NMC) will create a viable and sustainable medical education system in India. The newly constituted body is envisioned to ramp up the capacity of existing teaching and training institutes significantly. Further, The National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions Act, 2020 which was passed by the Parliament recently will provide for a much-needed regulation and maintenance of standards of education and services by allied and healthcare professionals. Many other bills such as the Dental Commission Bill; the Nursing and Midwifery Commission Bill when approved will further transform the healthcare sector in India.

Several reforms have been undertaken in the direction of increasing the annual intake in medical education institutions. Between 2014 and 2020, there has been a 48% increase in the number of medical colleges in the country. The number of MBBS seats has increased by 57%, and the number of medical PG seats has also significantly increased by nearly 80%. Under Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana, we are setting up 16 new All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and supporting states in upgrading the existing government medical colleges to include dedicated Trauma Centers and Super Specialty Blocks. We have also undertaken reforms and measures such as Diplomate National Board (DNB) courses and the District Residency Program to further improve the availability of doctors.

We aspire to leverage India’s prowess in information and technology to bring digital transformation through the use of cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and online tools such as e-Sanjeevani for teleconsultations which have been scaled up and has delivered more than 1.2 crore tele-consultations. The recent example of Co-WIN, wherein we have been able to provide digital and verifiable QR-coded vaccination certificates to more than 2.50 crore people on a single day, gives me the confidence to deliver the Hon’ble Prime Minister’s vision of a healthy India.

Today, under the leadership of Modiji, India maintains the lowest positivity and mortality rate and the highest COVID recovery rates in the world. We followed the motto of Sabka Prayas–combined efforts of the governments, scientists, healthcare workers, and people of India through a “Whole of Government” and “Whole of Society” approach for COVID management. It is his vision that a Samruddh Bharat is delivered through a Swastha Bharat, and we remain committed to delivering the promise made by the Prime Minister to provide quality and affordable healthcare to 1.3 billion people of this country.

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