India has marked a key milestone in universalising primary health care with the target of operationalising 70,000 Ayushman Bharat-Health and Wellness Centres (AB-HWCs) by March 31 being realised ahead of time, the Union Health Ministry said on Sunday.
Till date, about 41.35 crore people have accessed care in these AB-HWCs and about 54 per cent of them are women, the ministry said.
The feat of scaling up primary health care facilities at this pace despite the COVID-19 pandemic was enabled by a high degree of coordination between the Centre and states and union territories, foresight in planning, flexibility in adaptation, standardization of processes, and regular interactions at all levels for monitoring and prompt redressal of issues, it said.
This is testimony to the process of effective decentralisation and cooperative federalism, the ministry said.
The launch of Ayushman Bharat- Health and Wellness Centres (AB-HWC) in April 2018 marked a watershed moment in India's public health history, the ministry said in its statement.
By December 2022, as many as 1,50,000 sub-health centres and primary health centres in urban and rural areas were targeted to be transformed to AB-HWCs and deliver comprehensive primary health care that includes preventive and health promotion at the community level with continuum of care which is free and close to community in rural and urban areas.
''This mission mode approach also aimed at realising India's vision of universal health coverage,'' the statement said.
Besides expanding and strengthening the existing reproductive and child health services and communicable diseases services, the functional AB-HWCs provide services related to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and is gradually adding other primary health care services for mental health, ENT, ophthalmology, oral health, geriatric and palliative health care and trauma care, etc., it stated.
''HWCs demonstrate a high potential for positive outcomes in terms of gender equity for care seeking, and promoting wellness as a critical component of primary health care. To date, about 41.35 crore people have accessed care in these AB-HWCs. About 54 per cent of them are women,'' it said.
Preventive health care is the essential component of the services delivered through HWCs. The identified individuals with the chronic conditions are put on treatment with necessary follow-up. So far, 9.1 crore screenings for hypertension, 7.4 crore screenings for diabetes, 4.7 crore screenings for oral cancer, 2.4 crore screenings for breast cancer and 1.7 crore screenings for cervical cancer in women have been done, the ministry highlighted.
Tele-consultation services are another key component of HWCs. More than 9.45 lakh tele-consultations have been done at the HWCs, it said.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, AB-HWCs played a significant role in undertaking public health action related to COVID-19 prevention and enabling non-COVID-19 essential health services.
''About 75 per cent of total NCD screenings have been conducted during this COVID-19 period (between 1st February 2020 to till date) itself, showing the confidence reposed by people in these AB-HWCs during the present public health challenge.
''The quantum of services delivered and the pace of implementation, inspire confidence that the programme is on track to realize the vision to deliver affordable comprehensive primary health care services closer to people,'' the ministry said in the statement.