Dr Harsh Vardhan began his second term as minister in the National Democratic Alliance – II government by cycling from home to the health and family welfare ministry in Nirman Bhavan to highlight the importance of physical activity for health and green transport for the environment.
Dr Harsh Vardhan began his second term as minister in the National Democratic Alliance – II government by cycling from home to the health and family welfare ministry in Nirman Bhavan to highlight the importance of physical activity for health and green transport for the environment. He had not even hopped off his bicycle when his staff informed him about a Nipah case being confirmed in Kerala, which was followed a week later by nationwide protests and strikes by doctors and health professionals after two junior doctors were assaulted at Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College in Kolkata. Dr Harsh Vardhan speaks to Sanchita Sharma on the firefighting his ministry has done over seven weeks and its plans for the next five years. Edited excerpts:
I wrote to West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, urging her provide a secure working environment to doctors. I also requested all chief ministers to consider establishing specific state legislation or bring amendments in existing state legislative acts to ensure doctors and clinical establishments function without fear of violence.
The Centre also supports states in implementing communicable disease programmes, such as National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme that covers six vector-borne diseases, including Japanese encephalitis and AES, which is of unknown etiology.
In the present outbreak, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has done research studies covering various aspects of the disease and I am hopeful we will arrive at substantial findings soon.
It is difficult to rate states as there are different parameters for performance, such as access, quality etc. Some states that are doing better are Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Jammu & Kashmir, Daman and Diu, Gujarat, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh etc. The NHA continually monitors performance of all states on different parameters and issues guidelines to improve performance.
Our vision is to transform 150,000 sub-health centres (SHC) and primary health centres into AB-HWCs in a phased manner. The target for 2018-19 was 15,000, and the cumulative target for 2019-20 is 40,000 and so on, till we achieve our goal by 2022. We are on track and have at least 19,000 operational AB-HWCs.
In addition to investments made through NHM and other programmes to strengthen PHCs/SHCs, central funds are being galvanised. An outlay of Rs 1,200 crore was made as central share for 2018-19, and another Rs 1,600 crore for FY 2019-20. Till now, approvals for more than 52,000 AB-HWCs have been provided to states/Union territories.
There is a provision of primary health care services related to maternal, newborn, child health and nutrition and some communicable diseases. AB-HWCs will also provide care for acute simple illnesses, screening, prevention and management of chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes, mental health, and care for chronic communicable diseases like tuberculosis and leprosy, and elderly and palliative care. All these additions are, of course, incremental and the phasing will depend upon the states.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is also being in public health, such as setting up an imaging bio-bank of cancer-related radiology and pathology images of more than 20,000 profiles of cancer patients with focus on the major cancers prevalent in India. AI is also being used for early detection of diabetic retinopathy, which is a side effect of uncontrolled diabetes that can cause blindness.
Under the health ministry, the NCDC (National Centre for Disease Control) is collecting data on acute respiratory illnesses reporting to Emergency departments of six central government hospitals in Delhi. The data is being analysed monthly to track how spikes in AQI (air quality index) is linked with increasing hospitalisations.
The ICMR is also conducting a study on ‘Health impact assessment in 20 most-polluted cities’ in the country to provide an invaluable link between air pollution and health problems.
Moving towards universal health care for each and every citizen of India is the prime minister’s dream and we will work hard to make it a reality. The goal is to make India a global model for ‘Health for All’.