Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission: Everything you must know about ‘India’s largest health infra scheme’

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday tweeted he is all set to visit Uttar Pradesh’s Varanasi and Siddharthnagar to inaugurate “India’s largest scheme to scale-up health infrastructure”. The Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission is aimed at catering to the needs of both urban and rural areas health emergencies with the help of robust public health infrastructure.

Ahead of the launch of India’s largest mission, the Prime Minister has already inaugurated nine medical colleges from Siddharthnagar along with UP Chief Minister Yogi Aditynath, Governor Anandiben Patel and Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya. The Prime Minister will inaugurate other development projects as well worth Rs 5,200 crore for Varanasi in the poll-bound state.

Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission explained

The Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission, an addition to the National Health Mission, will provide support to 17,788 rural Health and Wellness Centres in 10 ‘high focus’ states. The mission will establish 11,024 urban Health and Wellness Centres across the country.

The mission’s main objective is to “fill critical gaps in public health infrastructure, especially when it comes down to critical and primary care in both urban and rural areas”. The mission will ensure that there is an access to critical care services in all districts of the country with over five lakh population through ‘Exclusive Critical Care Hospital Blocks’.

The remaining districts of the country will be covered through referral services, read the PMO’s statement. Integrated public health labs will also be set up in all the districts that will give people access to a range of diagnostic services through a network of laboratories across the country.

Focus on diagnosis, surveillance of disease

An IT-enabled disease surveillance system through a network of surveillance laboratories at block, district, regional and national levels will be established under the Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission. “All the public health labs will be connected through the Integrated Health Information Portal, which will be expanded to all states and UTs”, the PMO statement read.

The mission also has also readied itself in the light of the coronavirus pandemic. The mission also aims at ensuring a robust system for “detecting, investigating, preventing, and combating public health emergencies and disease outbreaks”. And, in order to make this happen, 17 new public health units will be set up. The existing 33 public health units will be further strengthened. Frontline and healthcare workers will also be trained well in advance to respond to public health emergencies effectively.

The mission will set up other infrastructure, including a national institution for one health, four national institutes for virology, a regional research platform for WHO’s South East Asia region, nine biosafety level-III laboratories, and five regional centres for disease control.

Is the scheme significant?

Yes. India has been in need of a ubiquitous healthcare system for a very long time. A study (‘State of Democracy in South Asia (SDSA)–Round 3’) by Lokniti-CSDS in 2019 highlighted how access to public health care remained elusive to those living on the margins. The study highlighted that 70 per cent of the locations have public healthcare services. The availability was, however, seen less in rural areas (65 per cent) compared to urban areas (87 per cent).

In 45 per cent of the surveyed locations, people could use healthcare services by walking and 43 per cent of the locations could be reached via transport. Proximity to healthcare services is higher in urban localities, highlighted the survey.

PM Modi had recently also launched a scheme, the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM), a flagship digital initiative scheme that will help create a unique health ID for every citizen, digital healthcare professionals and facilities registry.

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