Union Health Minister, Dr Harsh Vardhan, attending the 73rd virtual session of WHO South East Asia Region, said, “Health is the biggest and most important investment that a nation can make for its people.”
Representing India in the meet, Dr Harsh Vardhan urged everyone to invest in health,“All of us who have gathered here today, are in a position to influence and drive more investment into healthcare.”
Addressing the dignitaries as the outgoing Chairperson, he offered his deepest condolences for the loss of lives across the WHO South East Asia Region due to COVID-19. He also extended heartfelt gratitude to the brave frontline workers of the region and said, “Collective efforts at the cost of their own safety and wellbeing, have not only helped save lives but have also shown us resoluteness in caring for all in the face of adversity.”
Speaking on India’s commitment to sustain its health goals, he elaborated on the National Health Policy 2017, which aims to provide affordable healthcare for all citizens of India and Ayushman Bharat launched in 2018 which marks a significant milestone on the road towards universal health coverage and is also the world’s largest government-sponsored free healthcare assurance program.
Reminding the audience that India achieved phenomenal success with its low-cost medicine stores called Jan Aushadhi Kendras (JAK), which provide quality affordable essential medicines to the people in need. He spoke to the member states about the significant achievements like the elimination of Poliomyelitis, Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus and Yaws as well as considerable reductions in maternal and newborn mortality across the country. Also mentioned about India’s ambitious target of elimination of Tuberculosis by 2025, five years ahead of the global target and commitment to eliminate neglected tropical diseases like lymphatic filariasis and kala-azar.
Further speaking on the multi-faceted and multi-sectoral nature of health governance that demands linkages to solutions, resources and interventions to deliver tangible benefits, Dr Harsh Vardhan said, “The Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, Housing for All by 2022, Nutrition Mission, Skill Development, Smart Cities, Eat Right India, Fit India and many such multi-sectoral initiatives have been launched which are bringing us dividends in terms of elevating the quality of life of our people thereby elevating their health condition.”
Elaborated on the benefits of the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM), which envisages the creation of a digital health ecosystem to enable Indian citizens to have unique health IDs, digitized health records as well as a registry of doctors and health facilities to ensure seamless delivery of health services across the country.
For the first time the WHO South East Asia Region two-day event was held entirely through virtual platforms owing to the COVID pandemic. The 73rd session is hosted by the Government of Thailand (from Bangkok) while the previous session was held in New Delhi. Dr. Harsh Vardhan addressed the gathering first as the Chair of the 72nd session before handing over the charge to the new Chair Anutin Charnvirakul, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health, Thailand and then addressed the dignitaries present on behalf of India.
Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare. Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Director WHO SEARO was also present at the event.