Advancing UHC in India: financing health, strengthening primary healthcare

11-12 December 2017

Speaking at a national consultation to mark the Universal Health Coverage Day, Mr Jagat Prakash Nadda, Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare reiterated government’s commitment to advancing the agenda of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in the country.

The two-day consultation, on the theme of ‘financing health, strengthening primary health care’ was jointly organized by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India and WHO Country Office for India at New Delhi on 11-12 December 2017.

December 12 is observed as the Universal Health Coverage Day since 2014 following a United Nations resolution on UHC on this day in 2012.

“This year is significant as the National Health Policy 2017 has been approved, which envisages the attainment of the highest possible level of health without anyone having to face financial hardship as a consequence. The government has taken concrete steps to reduce the out of pocket (OOP) expenditure,’’ Mr Nadda said.

Echoing the Health Minister, Mr Shiv Pratap Shukla, Minister of State for Finance, Government of India said, “The government is committed to providing the resources for achieving Universal Health Coverage.”

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director for WHO South-East Asia Region said, “Quality health services should be affordable. No person should suffer financial hardship or be pushed into poverty as a result of accessing health care. Financial protection – especially for the most vulnerable – is therefore vital to our progressive realization of UHC.”

Highlighting that while more money for health is important, it is not enough. “More money will not automatically translate into more health service coverage and better financial protection unless it is spent efficiently,” she added.

Dr Vinod K Paul, Member, NITI Aayog urged that UHC requires rapid scaling up of preventive and promotive health services, which must be delivered close to the people. This, he said, would be possible through a stronger primary healthcare. In this context, he suggested that fast-tracking of health and wellness centres in India would contribute to stronger primary healthcare.

Among others present at the inaugural were Dr Henk Bekedam, WHO Representative to India; Mr Manoj Jhalani, Additional Secretary & Mission Director, National Health Mission; Dr B. D. Athani, Special DGHS; Ms Vandana Gurnani, Joint Secretary (RCH), MoHFW; Dr Manohar Agnani, Joint Secretary (Policy), MoHFW; Health Secretaries and Mission Directors from the states, and other stakeholders.

The consultation discussed key aspects of UHC in India, including health financing, health service delivery and primary healthcare. The forum also deliberated on accelerating progress towards UHC in India and operationalizing policy proposals of the National Health Policy 2017.

Key sessions at the consultation included: More money for health and more health for money; Perspectives on fiscal space for health; Moving from selective to integrated comprehensive primary health care: expanding the package of services; Models and approaches for primary healthcare, and Provider payment mechanism in health sector.

This consultation was attended by nearly 180 participants, including Principal Secretaries, Mission Directors (NHM) and Senior Program Managers from 29 states and union territories.

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