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Union Health Secretary Apurva Chandra Addresses 77th World Health Assembly in Geneva

Geneva: Apurva Chandra, Union Health Secretary, led the Indian delegation at the 77th World Health Assembly of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva today. During the Plenary Session, he highlighted India’s efforts in promoting universal health coverage and its commitment to global health.

Chandra began his address by drawing parallels between this year’s theme, “All for Health, Health for All,” and the Indian philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, meaning “the world is one family.” He mentioned the Ayushman Bharat initiative, which aims to operationalize over 160,000 Health and Wellness Centres (Ayushman Aarogya Mandir) to promote universal health coverage in India.

Highlighting India’s robust health infrastructure, he cited the WHO SPAR report, noting that India has a core capacity score of 86% for detecting, assessing, reporting, and responding to health emergencies, surpassing both regional and global averages. “India is on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with significant reductions in Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) and Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) over the past decades,” he stated. He also emphasized India’s progress in eliminating Visceral Leishmaniasis (VL) and reducing tuberculosis (TB) incidence and mortality.

Chandra discussed the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY), the world’s largest health assurance scheme, which provides health coverage to over 343 million beneficiaries, significantly reducing out-of-pocket expenses for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization. He also highlighted India’s leadership in digital health initiatives, stating, “India has emerged as a lighthouse country in digital public goods for global collaborations.”

Equitable access to medical countermeasures, Chandra emphasized, should be a fundamental right for all. He noted that India produces 60% of the global vaccine supply and is working with WHO to strengthen drug regulatory systems, ensuring quick access to high-quality medical products globally. He also mentioned India’s experienced healthcare workforce and its role in enhancing treatment outcomes worldwide, positioning India as a key destination for Medical Value Tourism. The introduction of the Ayush Visa for medical tourism under the Ayush systems of medicine was also highlighted.

Chandra further elaborated on India’s constructive engagement in the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) and International Health Regulations (IHR) processes. He stressed the importance of building consensus for a global health architecture that prepares for and responds to future pandemics and public health emergencies.

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