Union Health Minister Current Affairs - 2019

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72nd session of WHO Regional Committee of South-East Asia inaugurated in New Delhi

Union Minister of Health, Harsh Vardhan inaugurated the week-long 72nd session of World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Committee for South-East Asia (SEA) in New Delhi. This is the 2nd occasion that India is hosting Regional Committee meeting. Last meeting was also hosted by India in New Delhi.

Indian Health Minister, Harsh Vardhan was unanimously elected as chair of 72nd session. He called for a ‘mission-mode approach’ for creating and spreading public health success stories from region.

Key Highlights

The week-long meeting of WHO Regional Committee of South-East Asia, is being attended by Health Minister’s and experts from member nations to deliberate on public health issues and work towards elimination of diseases. 8 Health Ministers from the 11 countries of WHO’s South-East Asian Region (SEAR), among others were present at inaugural session.

The session provides a unique opportunity to identify innovative solutions to common problems that countries in this diverse region face.

Deliberation: At meeting, the member nations will deliberate, among other issues, strengthening of emergency preparedness capacities, cervical cancer, eliminating measles as well as addressing high burden of tuberculosis (TB).

Updating the Flagship Priorities is one of the agenda of this Regional Committee as it will help ensure continued progress. The flagship priorities have provided targeted focus and been responsible for a series of remarkable achievements such as in advancing maternal and child health, tackling measles and rubella, in battle against NCDs (Non Communicable Diseases), NTDs (Neglected tropical diseases), TB (Tuberculosis) and AMR (Antimicrobial resistance). The region has performed with skill and determination in achieving these flagship priorities.

Union Health Minister highlighted India’s effort in promoting healthcare in country-

  1. Government of India has fast-tracked many policy initiatives aimed at achieving all the core tenets of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) to deliver affordable and inclusive healthcare for all.
  2. Government aims for Universal Health for all, a disease-free India and global standards of excellence in healthcare.
  3. Emphasising the need for healthy nutrition government is observing the month of September as “Poshan Maah” (Nutrition Month). This is to sensitise the public on healthy eating and address twin issues of malnutrition and undernutrition and obesity in some sections, while intensifying the campaign for a “malnutrition-free India’.

NOTE: WHO Regional Committee of South-East Asia is the highest decision making and governing body of WHO in the region.

Centre to raise Health Services Expenditure to 2.5% of GDP by 2025

Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan while addressing a query during Question Hour in Rajya Sabha announced that Government has set a target to raise health services expenditure to 2.5% of country’s GDP (Gross domestic product) by 2025. He also highlighted that public expenditure on health services has increased continuously over the years and continues to increase.

Key Highlights

The government’s objective is in line with National Health Policy 2017 which envisages increasing public health expenditure to 2.5% of GDP by 2025.

The policy also recommends that State governments should spend more than 8% of their budget on health sector by 2020.

Steps taken by Government:

Under Aayushman Bharat programme ( or Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana or National Health Protection Scheme), Government envisions setting up 1.5 lakh health and wellness centres by 2022 and out of this 18,000-19,000 have already been established. These centres will boost healthcare facilities in country’s Urban as well as rural areas.

The 3% Education Cess on personal income tax and corporation tax to is already replaced with 4% Health and Education Cess so as to cater to education and health needs of poor and rural families.

Higher Education Funding Agency (HEFA) has also started supporting infrastructure works of medical institutions.