Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare digitally attended the 73rd session of WHO South East Asia Region, here today in the presence of Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare. Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Director WHO SEARO was also present at the event.
This is the first time the two-day event is being held entirely through virtual platforms owing to the COVID pandemic. The 73rd session is being 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 Mr. Anutin Charnvirakul, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health, Thailand and then addressed the dignitaries present on behalf of India.
Addressing the dignitaries as the outgoing Chairperson, he 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.”
Dr. Harsh Vardhan highlighted the importance of such Regional Committee 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 most pressing regional and global public health issues and the way forward.” 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,” he added wishing to meet them physically and safely in the near future.
Representing India in the meet, Dr. Harsh Vardhan highlighted the giant strides the country had made under the guidance of Prime Minister Sh. Narendra Modi to protect the lives and livelihood of its citizens from the pandemic and “left no stones unturned to contain and mitigate the virus.”
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. He reminded the audience that India achieved phenomenal success with its low-cost medicine stores called Jan Aushadhi kendras which provide quality affordable essential medicines to the people in need.
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 informed them of 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 and multi-sectoral 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, “Health is the biggest and most important investment that a nation can make for its people,” he 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, digitized health records as well as a registry of doctors and health facilities to ensure seamless delivery of health services across the country. Dr. Harsh 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.”