The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the Rs. 22,507-crore National Urban Health Mission (NUHM) that seeks to address healthcare challenges in towns and cities with focus on urban poor.

The scheme will now be introduced as a sub-mission under the National Health Mission (NHM). The mission will be implemented in 779 cities and towns, each with a population of more than 50,000, and cover over 7.75 crore people.

The NUHM aims to improve the health status of the urban population in general, and the poor and other disadvantaged sections in particular, by facilitating equitable access to quality health care through a revamped primary public health care system, targeted outreach services and involvement of the community and urban local bodies.

The NUHM will be on the lines of the Health and Family Welfare Ministry’s flagship National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) launched in 2005 to address the health challenges of rural India.

The interventions under this sub-mission will aim to result in the reduction of the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and the Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR), universal access to reproductive health care and the convergence of all health-related interventions

Under the scheme, the government proposes to set up one Urban Primary Health Centre for a population of 50,000-60,000, one Urban Community Health Centre for five to six urban Primary Health Centres in big cities, an Auxiliary Nursing Midwives (ANM) for a population of 10,000 and an Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) (community link worker) for 200 to 500 households.

The Central government is to provide a share of Rs. 16,955 crore toward the estimated cost of NUHM for five years — Rs. 22,507 crore.

While the Centre will fund 75 per cent of the mission and the State 25 per cent, the funding ratio for North Eastern States and special category States of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand will be 90:10. The existing mechanism and systems created and functioning under NRHM will be strengthened to meet the needs of NUHM and city-wise implementation plans will be prepared based on baseline surveys and felt needs. The urban local bodies will be fully involved in the implementation of the scheme.

The scheme had been pending for a long time but not cleared due to shortage of financial resources. Even now, funds earmarked for it in the current year (2013-14) are abysmally low at Rs. one crore only.

At present, there is no dedicated health delivery system for the urban poor. The health indicators among them are also bad and nutrition levels of urban children living in slums are alarmingly low. Estimates have shown that one in 10 children born in the slums did not see their fifth birthday while less than half were immunised.