New Delhi, September 9: Union Minister Harsh Vardhan on Wednesday said COVID-19 pandemic has taught the world the importance of protecting precious health gains, and stressed on investing in health and building a robust healthcare delivery system with special focus on rural areas.
Representing India at the 73rd session of WHO South East Asia Region, he highlighted the giant strides the country made under the guidance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to protect the lives and livelihood of its citizens from the pandemic.
“So far the public health achievements made in the region have been laying the foundation of a bright future for our people. However, COVID-19 has turned the clock back years if not decades in the fight against infectious diseases.
“Data suggests that COVID-19 has already derailed a lot of our efforts and is taking us back to where we were 20 years ago. This is a stark reality and we need to take cognizance. On our part, we left no stones unturned to contain and mitigate the virus. I would say India has responded well to the challenges posed by the pandemic,” he said at the virtual session.
The Union health minister was joined by Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Minister of State for Health. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Director, WHO SEARO was also part of the event.
It is for the first time that the two-day event is being held entirely through virtual platform owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, the health ministry said in a statement.
The 73rd session is being hosted by the Government of Thailand (from Bangkok). The previous session was held in New Delhi.
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, the statement said.
Addressing the dignitaries as the outgoing chairperson, the Union minister offered his deepest condolences for the loss of lives across the region due to COVID-19.
He also extended heartfelt gratitude to the brave frontline workers of the region whose 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 .
Vardhan also highlighted the importance of such regional platforms as being very useful not only for highlighting the advancements made as a result of all our collective efforts, but also in discussing some of the most pressing regional and global public health issues and the way forward .
The South-East Asia Region, with its 11 member states, represents a quarter of the world’s population and strengthening the healthcare systems of member states of the region will help in improving the state of global health, achieving both the Triple Billion target and Sustainable Development Goals.
Our common goal of ‘Health for All’ unites us all, even from thousands of miles away, and this very goal will drive our discourse on regional health today, Vardhan noted.
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, the ministry statement said.
The Union health minister informed the member states of the significant achievements like the elimination of Poliomyelitis, Maternal and Neonatal Tetanus and Yaws as well as considerable reductions in maternal and newborn mortality .
He also talked 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’.
Speaking on the multi-faceted nature of health governance that demands linkages to solutions, resources and interventions to deliver tangible benefits, he 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.
Elaborating on the prime minister’s vision, he said, Health is the biggest and most important investment that a nation can make for its people.
The minister also spoke on the benefits of the National Digital Health Mission, which envisages the creation of a digital health ecosystem to enable Indian citizens to have unique health IDs, digitised health records as well as a registry of doctors and health facilities to ensure seamless delivery of health services across the country.
Vardhan ended his speech by imploring all to invest in health as, all of us who have gathered here today, are in a position to influence and drive more investment into healthcare. (PTI)