The National Urban Health Mission (NUHM), aimed at providing primary healthcare for the poor in cities and towns with a population of over 50,000, was launched by Union Health Minister Gulam Nabi Azad here on Monday.

One of the flagship programmes of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre, National Urban Health Mission is the urban counterpart of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).

It will cover Bangalore, Mangalore, Mysore, Ullal and Bagalkot in Karnataka in the first phase.

It will eventually cover 779 urban pockets across the country.

Mr. Azad said that five more States, which are ready with plans, are likely to launch the scheme within this financial year.

Though health was a State subject, the Centre had stepped in to speed up reaching primary healthcare to the poor, offering 80 per cent of the total investment.

The Minister said the urban poor are often in a worse condition than their rural counterparts, with pollution, unhygienic living conditions and lack of clean drinking water making them prone to diseases.

Urban boom

Anuradha Gupta, Mission Director, National Health Mission, said the concentration of population in urban areas is projected to be 46 per cent total bulk by 2030, with increased migration. Investment in urban health has been “sub-optimal” and the poor were making out-of-pocket expenses to meet their healthcare needs in private hospitals, she said.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said the National Urban Health Mission was necessary in urban centres that have “five-star-like” health establishments for the well-healed, but not affordable healthcare for the poor.

He said the Government of Karnataka was also planning to establish dialysis centres at each taluk to cater to urban healthcare needs. Nagu-Magu, an ambulance service for pregnant women, was launched on the occasion.