The Government of India and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have signed a $300 million loan to strengthen and improve access to comprehensive primary health care in urban areas of 13 states that will benefit over 256 million urban dwellers including 51 million from slum areas.
Rajat Kumar Mishra, Additional Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs in the Ministry of Finance, signed for the Government of India the agreement for Strengthening Comprehensive Primary Health Care and pandemic preparedness in Urban Areas Program while Takeo Konishi, Country Director of ADB’s India Resident Mission, signed for ADB.
After signing the loan agreement, Mishra said that the program supports the Government of India’s key health initiatives – Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centres (AB-HWC) and Pradhan Mantri Atmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana (PM-ASBY) – which has been renamed as Pradhan Mantri Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission (PM-ABHIM) – by expanding availability and access to quality primary health care services particularly for vulnerable populations in urban areas.
Ayushman Bharat program, launched in 2018, aims to improve access to comprehensive primary health care as a key strategy to achieve universal health coverage in India. With the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) 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 health care is critical amid challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic to India’s health system,” said Mr. Konishi. “The program complements the government’s efforts to bridge the health care gaps by strengthening institutional capacity, operation, and management of urban health and wellness centers at the central, state, and municipal levels.”
The program will be implemented in urban areas across 13 states: Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and West Bengal.
Besides the pandemic response, interventions through the program promote increased utilization of urban HWCs with the provision of comprehensive primary health care packages including non-communicable diseases and community outreach services such as awareness-raising activities on health care 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 program is supported by a $2 million technical assistance grant from ADB’s Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction to provide support for program implementation and coordination, capacity building, innovation, knowledge sharing, and application of scalable best practices across the healthcare system.