Cross-sector initiative for universal health coverage launched

The Lancet Citizens’ Commission on Reimagining India’s Health System will be developed over 10 years

December 11, 2020 10:13 pm | Updated 10:13 pm IST - CHENNAI:

Photo used for illustration purpose only.

Photo used for illustration purpose only.

The Lancet Citizens’ Commission on Reimagining India’s Health System , a cross-sector initiative to develop a citizens’ roadmap to achieving universal health coverage (UHC) in India over a period of ten years, was launched online on Friday.

The commission’s co-chairs announced at the event on Friday evening that it was a first-of-its-kind participatory, countrywide initiative, in collaboration with world’s leading health journal The Lancet and the Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute, Harvard University.

The COVID-19 pandemic had exposed many schisms in society, impacted India’s public health system, and showed the importance of accessibility to quality healthcare and UHC, said Tarun Khanna, director of the Institute .

The mission of the Commission is to lay out the path to achieving UHC in India in the coming decade, working with all stakeholders. “We expect that the Commission will formulate a roadmap for realising a resilient health system that offers comprehensive, accountable, accessible, inclusive, and affordable quality health care to all citizens in India. Although we recognise the important role that social determinants have in influencing health, the focus of the Commission will be on the architecture of India’s health system,” an article in The Lancet listed out.

“Health care in India was in dire need of reform long before the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite considerable progress across health indicators such as maternal and infant mortality, disease burden in India is disproportionately high,” the article added. The situation is exacerbated by structural inequities of caste, class, gender, geography, and community in India that translate into health inequalities and are amplified by the state of the health system.

The Commission will be guided by four principles: first, UHC covers all health concerns; secondly, prevention and long-term care are key. Thirdly, the concern is financial protection for all health costs, and finally, aspiring for a health system that can be accessed by all who enjoy the same quality.

The co-chairs, during the launch, stressed on the state’s role as a leader in the sector, but to fulfil this role, it must grapple with the complex and fragmented architecture of India's health system. Speaking on the occasion, Sowmya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist, World Health Organization, urged the group to look at gaps in terms of indicators, and look at best practices even within India, to replicate elsewhere.

The commission will enable participatory public engagement to develop a citizens’ blueprint for the implementation of UHC. To this end, they have called for contributions and partners to reach out through the Lancet Citizens’ Commission website. A final report may be expected in two years.

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