India urges UN Member Nations to continue their Financial and Technical Support to Public Health Initiatives

Discussions were held today between the Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad and the UN Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, who is on an official visit to India from 26-29 April 2012. The UN SG’s visit is focussing on important issues related to public health. Shri Azad conveyed to UN Secreatry General that “this is an opportune moment, your excellency, for you to use your good offices to urge member nations to not reduce their financial and technical support to public health initiatives for the common benefit of the global community.”

Shri Azad recalled that recently United Nations organized High level Meetings of the Heads of States’, Heads of Governments’ and Health Ministers’ from across the globe on the most vital subjects of HIV/AIDS and Non-Communicable Diseases in the months of June and September, 2011 respectively. Shri Azad informed that the National AIDS Control Programme with 100% federal funding has succeeded in reducing the number of annual new HIV infections by over 56% during the last decade. India has the world’s largest HIV surveillance network with more than 1300 sentinel sites among key risk groups enabling effective targeting of prevention and treatment interventions to the right population groups and geographic areas and sustain an IEC campaign aimed at reducing stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS. He added that the Government of India has decided to carry the work against HIV/AIDS forward by funding the phase IV of the National AIDS Control Programme through domestic resources. The Minister also highlighted that WHO has recently taken India off the list of Polio endemic countries.

As regards Non Communicable Diseases the Minister said that Secretary General’s efforts at sensitizing the global leadership about the challenges posed by the rapidly rising threat of NCDs, across the world – in both developed and developing countries, is appreciable. Shri Azad said that, ahead of the UN General Assembly special session, India conceived and launched national programmes for screening, early detection and treatment of Non-Communicable Diseases such as Diabetes, Cardio-Vascular Diseases, Cancer and Stroke as well as for health care of the elderly. To begin with, these were taken up for implementation as a pilot project in 100 most remote and backward districts, spread over 21 States at a cost of approximately 245 million USD (Rs. 1230 crores). “Covering a population base of almost 100-150 million, this is the largest such exercise attempted anywhere in the World”, he said. “We have decided to expand these national programmes to the entire country during the 12th five year plan period, beginning from April 2012, to screen the entire population for early detection of NCDs and provide for treatment through free distribution of generic drugs under our attempt at achieving universal health coverage”, he added.

Shri Azad also informed that “Health” has been identified as the key thrust area in the 12th Five year plan and Government’s spending on healthcare is set to increase with greater outlay for the public health sector. In the field of Reproductive and Child Health special initiatives have been undertaken to ensure access to health services to un-served and underserved populations that include people living in predominantly tribal and hilly areas. As prevention by raising awareness is an effective way of dealing with challenges, Shri Azad mentioned that on this World Health Day, the Ministry has taken a new initiative of reaching out to masses through the medium of television and radio channels so that benefits of programmes of the Ministry such as the Janani Suraksha Yojna, Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakaram, special programmes launched to combat neonatal and infant mortality - for instance operationalizing essential and advanced new-born care at various levels of health facilities, Home Based New-born Care Scheme and Mother and Child Tracking System actually reach the people.

Secretary General Mr Ban Ki-Moon fondly recalled his long association with India. He said India is one of the important member states of UN. While taking cognizance of work still to be done to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, Mr Moon said he would like to showcase India’s experiences and best practices in dealing with maternal and child health issues for others to follow. He commended India’s success in combating Polio and said that they would wish to help India in dealing with Polio, Malaria, Tetanus, Measles and HIV transmission related mortality. Mr Moon said “simple things mean a lot” and mentioned his programme “Every Woman Every Child” which has focussed world’s attention on the right to life for every child and woman.

26 April 2012