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India, ADB sign 300M dollar loan agreement to improve primary healthcare

A hospital ward. Stock photo: Silas Camargo Silão/Pixabay

New Delhi, Nov 24 (MNN) The government of India and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has signed a 300-million dollar loan agreement to strengthen and improve access to comprehensive primary healthcare in urban areas of 13 states, the Indian government said on Wednesday.

The endeavour will benefit over 256 million urban dwellers, including 51 million from the slum areas.

Rajat Kumar Mishra, Additional Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, signed on behalf of government of India the agreement to ‘Strengthening Comprehensive Primary Health Care and pandemic preparedness in Urban Areas Programme’ on Tuesday.

Takeo Konishi, Country Director, ADB’s India Resident Mission, signed on behalf of the international body.

After signing the agreement, Mishra said that the programme supports the government of India’s key health initiatives — Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centres and Pradhan Mantri Atmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana — which has been renamed as Pradhan Mantri Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission (PM-ABHIM) by expanding availability and access to quality primary healthcare services, particularly for vulnerable populations in urban areas.

Ayushman Bharat programme, launched in 2018, aims to improve access to comprehensive primary healthcare as a key strategy to achieve universal health coverage in India.

With the spread of the coronavirus pandemic that put additional pressure on the country’s health system, the government launched PM-ASBY, later renamed as PM-ABHIM, in October 2021 to adopt a long-term approach to system strengthening to prepare for future pandemics and other emergencies.

“Ensuring equitable access to non-COVID-19 primary healthcare is critical amid challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic to India’s health system,” said Konishi.

“The programme complements the government’s efforts to bridge the healthcare gaps by strengthening institutional capacity, operation, and management of urban health and wellness centres at the central, state, and municipal levels.”

The programme will be implemented in urban areas across Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and West Bengal.

Beside the pandemic response, interventions through the programme promote increased utilisation of urban HWCs with provision of comprehensive primary health care packages including noncommunicable diseases and community outreach services such as awareness raising activities on healthcare options, particularly for women.

Delivery and health information systems for primary health care will be upgraded through digital tools, quality assurance mechanisms, and engagement and partnership with the private sector.

The programme is supported by a 2 million dollar technical assistance grant from ADB’s Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction to provide support for programme implementation and coordination, capacity building, innovation, knowledge sharing and application of scalable best practices across the healthcare system.

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