National consultation calls for strengthening of health system to address vector-borne diseases

New Delhi: A national consultation, organized by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW) and WHO Country for India made a strong call for strengthening the health system across the country to address the threat posed by vector-borne diseases, the theme of World Health Day 2014.

Present at the consultation were Mr Lov Verma, Secretary, Health, MoHFW; Dr V.M. Katoch, Secretary, Health Research; Mr. Navtej Sarna, Special Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, Dr.S.K Kothari, Special Director General, Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), Dr A.C. Dhariwal, Director, National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP); Mr Anshu Prakash, Joint Secretary, MoHFW and Dr Nata Menabde, WHO Representative to India, among other stakeholders.

The World Health Day aims at raising awareness about the threat posed by insect vectors and the bacteria, viruses, and parasites they carry, collectively known as vector-borne diseases (VBDs); and to motivate families and communities to protect themselves through simple measures. Endemic in more than 100 low- to middle-income countries across the world, more than half the world's population is at-risk for VBDs which account for 17% of the global burden of communicable diseases.

Speaking at the national consultation, Dr Nata Menabde, WHO Representative to India said, “The World Health Day campaign, ‘small bite: big threat’, brings renewed focus on sustainable control, elimination and eradication of VBDs.”

“It is only through strengthening of health systems with effective stewardship, enhanced collaboration across agencies, sectors, and all levels of government, and implementation of regulatory mechanisms that the challenge of vector-borne diseases in India can be addressed,” she added.

The panel discussion at the consultation deliberated at length on India’s strategy for achieving pre-elimination status of malaria. In addition, the issue of dengue as a major public health problem was also discussed, including measures such as behaviour change communication and effective intersectoral coordination that India should undertake to curb the emergence of dengue. Further, the challenges India faces for achieving kala-azar elimination by 2015 were brought centre-stage

Discussions at the consultation focused on lessons for strengthening vector control measures within the VBD programme, especially for improving coverage and enhancing service delivery. Best practices that have contributed to the prevention and control of vector-borne disease control from countries in the region were also shared.

The important issue of civil society contribution to community empowerment in order to achieve universal health coverage for VBDs was also addressed. Participants shared lessons learnt by NGOs working in partnership with the public health sector, particularly in reaching the hard-to-reach populations.

In a major step forward, the government and WHO recently conducted a Joint Monitoring Mission on vector-borne diseases to review progress, identify challenges and provide state-of-the-art advice on strategic issues, including how best to improve the integration of VBDs with the general health system in the country. This is the first time that a national health programme review has used a mixed approach of evaluating both disease control and health systems issues. The review addressed critical functions such as stewardship, procurement, health financing and service coverage that are fundamental aspects of the health system in providing VBD control services.

State-level consultations are also being held at Chennai, Lucknow, Kolktata and Patna.

For more information contact:

Mr Rajeev Varma
Senior Communications Officer
WHO India Country Office
New Delhi
Tel: 91-11-47594800
Mobile: +91 9811212753

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