India’s unwavering dedication to achieving universal health coverage took center stage as Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya addressed the 76th session of the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Committee for South-East Asia. The annual governing body meeting, held in New Delhi from October 30 to November 2, brought together key stakeholders from the region to discuss critical health issues and progress.
Minister Mandaviya emphasized India’s holistic and inclusive approach, aligning with the vision of universal health coverage and the firm commitment to “leave no one behind.” He lauded the significant strides made in this direction, notably through the Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centres (AB-HWC) initiative, which has been instrumental in providing comprehensive primary healthcare services, particularly in rural and remote areas of the country.
Mandaviya shared promising statistics, stating, “As of October 24, 2023, AB-HWCs have recorded over 2,110 million footfalls. The impact is resounding, with individuals availing free drugs over 1,830 million times and diagnostic services over 873 million times. Nearly 26 million wellness sessions have been conducted, engaging more than 306 million people.”
The health minister emphasized that India’s current primary healthcare focus through AB-HWC, which embodies a synergistic approach, is poised to deliver immeasurable positive health outcomes and reduce out-of-pocket expenditures, potentially serving as a model for other nations undergoing health sector reforms.
In an honor further underscoring India’s commitment to the region’s health, Mandaviya was unanimously elected as the chairperson of the 76th session of the WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia.
The session also provided a platform for health ministers and senior delegates from member countries to engage in discussions aimed at accelerating progress toward achieving health for all. Key issues on the agenda included strategies to accelerate the prevention and control of cardiovascular diseases, addressing neglected tropical diseases, and enhancing regional health security.
India’s resolute dedication to universal health coverage, exemplified by initiatives like AB-HWC, reinforces the country’s position as a leader in the global health landscape and a key contributor to the WHO’s regional efforts.