Dr. Mansukh Mandaviya Leads WHO SEARO Meeting


WHO SEARO Meeting: The 76th session of the World Health Organization Regional Committee for South-East Asia witnessed the leadership of Dr. Mansukh Mandaviya, the Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare. This important event brought together key figures in the field of healthcare to discuss critical health matters. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), was present virtually. Significantly, Dr. Mandaviya was unanimously elected as the Chairperson of this session, underlining his leadership in the region.

Notable Participants

The event saw the presence of several prominent figures in the healthcare sector. Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Director of WHO SEARO, Mr. Ahmed Naseem, the Health Minister of the Maldives, and Dr. Elia Antonio de Araujo Dos Reis Amaral, Health Minister of Timor Leste, were among the attendees. Dr. Seetha Arambepola, the Health Minister of Sri Lanka, Mr. Mohan Bahadur Basnet, Health Minister of Nepal, and Mr. Choe Hui Chol, the Ambassador to India from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, also joined the gathering. Additionally, Mr. Zahid Maleque, the Health Minister of Bangladesh, Dr. Pongsadhorn Pokpermdee, Dr. Syarifah Liza Munira, Director General for Health at the Ministry of Health in Indonesia, and Mr. Pemba Wangchuk, Acting Secretary at the Ministry of Health in Bhutan, were present to discuss regional health matters.

Stressing the Importance of Health

Dr. Mansukh Mandaviya reiterated the vision of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, emphasizing that “health is the ultimate wealth, and with good health, every task can be accomplished.” He highlighted India’s holistic and inclusive approach to healthcare, which includes expanding health infrastructure, promoting traditional medicine, and providing affordable healthcare for all, in line with the vision of Universal Health Coverage. Dr. Mandaviya made it clear that the commitment is to leave no one behind when it comes to healthcare access.

Success of Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centers

Dr. Mandaviya praised the progress of Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centers (AB-HWC) for their role in providing comprehensive primary healthcare services. He shared impressive statistics, stating that as of October 24, 2023, AB-HWCs have recorded over 2,110 million visits, with individuals receiving free drugs over 1,830 million times and diagnostic services over 873 million times. Furthermore, 26 million wellness sessions have engaged more than 306 million people.

Transformative Initiatives: WHO SEARO Meeting

The Union Health Minister also highlighted the impact of initiatives such as the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission and PM-ABHIM in strengthening India’s healthcare infrastructure, both digitally and physically. He believes that the focus on primary health centers through AB-HWC is a synergistic approach that will lead to positive health outcomes, reduce out-of-pocket expenditures, and serve as a model for other countries looking to reform their healthcare sectors.

Collaborative Efforts for a Better Future

During a tree planting ceremony at the WHO SEARO Building site in New Delhi, Dr. Mandaviya noted the significance of the building as a symbol of collaboration between India and WHO. It aims to address global healthcare challenges and ensure inclusive and equitable development of healthcare services in the South-East region. India’s contribution fund of Rs. 239.5 crores will support the successful completion of this project. The building is envisioned as a hub for collaboration, research, and knowledge exchange among healthcare professionals to find solutions for regional health challenges and share best practices.

Strengthening Primary Healthcare

Union Health Secretary Shri Sudhansh Pant highlighted the establishment of the South-East Asia Regional Forum for primary healthcare (PHC)-oriented Health Systems as a pivotal moment in supporting knowledge sharing and collaborative solutions for challenges facing PHC strengthening. Focusing on enhancing capacities for progress tracking, participatory mechanisms in urban healthcare governance, and receiving synergized support from WHO and partners tailored to national systems and context-specific needs is the current goal.

WHO’s Perspective

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus addressed the gathering virtually and noted the significance of the 76th Session of SEARO, especially given the global and regional context. The South-East Asia region is home to a significant portion of the world’s population and faces a considerable disease burden. Dr. Tedros commended the region’s efforts in combating tuberculosis and appreciated Dr. Mandaviya’s commitment to ‘Health for All’. He also mentioned that seven of the eleven member countries in the South-East Asia region have successfully eliminated at least one of the neglected tropical diseases.

Recognizing Achievements: WHO SEARO Meeting

Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh commended India’s achievements, particularly in operationalizing over 150,000 Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centers. India was also honored with the 2022 UN Interagency Task Force and WHO Special Programme on PHC award for its Hypertension Control Initiative, which has positively impacted more than four million people.

In addition to these distinguished leaders, Shri Manasvi Kumar, Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and several senior government officials and WHO representatives participated in this significant event, underscoring the commitment to advancing healthcare and improving health outcomes in the South-East Asia region.


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