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NITI Aayog calls for establishment of 1.5 lakh HWCs under Ayushman Bharat

NITI Aayog has called for accelerating the establishment of 150,000 health and wellness centers (HWCs) under the Ayushman Bharat program and making them operational on priority by 2022-23 to ensure sufficient coverage of affordable primary care and lower the burden on secondary and tertiary care. The Aayog in its Strategy for New India @75 document stated that HWCs should provide services such as screening and management of non-communicable diseases, mental health ailments, geriatric and palliative healthcare, trauma care, and emergency care among others. The report stated that developed nations such as the UK, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, and Sweden spend a large share of their federal healthcare budgets on primary care. In India, the existing primary healthcare model is limited in scope. Even where there is a well-functioning public primary health center, only services related to pregnancy care, limited childcare and certain services related to national health programs are provided, which represent only 15 percent of all morbidities for which people seek care. Public funding of health has been consistently low in India (approximately 1.3 percent of GDP). As a result, out-of-pocket expenditure (OOPE) is 62 percent of the total expenditure on health. The Aayog also pitched for ensuring access to drugs and medical devices at affordable prices as it was an essential ingredient of Universal Health Coverage.

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