Lauding India's announcement of a new health protection scheme and allocating Rs 52,000 crore to the sector in the Budget, the WHO today said they were "significant" steps towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC), something the global health body has been advocating for.Regional Director of World Health Organization's South- East Asia Region Poonam Khetrapal Singh commended the new schemes and initiatives planned to "holistically" address problems confronting the health sector.The Centre announced the world's largest government-funded health care program aimed at benefiting 10 crore poor families by providing coverage of up to Rs 5 lakh per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation. Presenting the 2018-19 Budget in the Lok Sabha, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the government will be setting up 24 new government medical colleges and hospitals by upgrading existing district hospitals in the country."WHO welcomes India's announcement of Rs 52,800 crore health budget and commends the new schemes and initiatives planned to holistically address health.

These are significant steps towards Universal Health Coverage that WHO has been advocating for," Singh told PTI. The announcement of health protection scheme to provide up to Rs 500,000 per family per year, is truly commendable, she said."The initiative that is planned to benefit nearly 10 crore families and 50 crore people would be the world's largest government-funded health protection programs when rolled out."She said the decision to make 150,000 wellness centers the foundation of providing comprehensive care, including for non-communicable diseases, maternal and child health services, besides free essential drugs and diagnostic services, "is another significant step towards UHC".The UHC is a flagship program of the WHO in the South- East Asia Region, and is now a global priority of the global body's Director General Dr Tedros."India's decision to set up new government medical colleges and a hospital in each district is an important step towards enhancing health workforce and quality of services," she said.She said this year the World Health Day theme is Universal Health Coverage."India's initiatives are well timed with WHO's initiative to strengthen efforts to make universal health coverage a reality," she added. The budget allocation for the health ministry for 2018-19 is Rs 52,800 crore in comparison to the current fiscal's allocation of Rs 47,352.51 crore, an increase of 5,448 crore or around 11.5 percent. – Business Standard 

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