A new health initiative “Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram” was launched by Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson, UPA from Palghar, a Tribal Block in Thane district, Maharashtra today. The initiative is to provide comprehensive healthcare and improve the quality of life of children through early detection of birth defects, diseases, deficiencies, development delays including disability.
Launching the programme, Gandhi said UPA Government is committed to achieve the objective of “Health for All” through accessible, affordable and equitable healthcare services. The Congress party has always strived to be the vehicle of empowerment of the people especially the marginalized sections of the society to see everybody’s dreams fulfilled through inclusive development. Under the National Rural Health Mission, several new initiatives have been taken, particularly to improve maternal and child health. Over Rs. 90,000 crores has been released to the states for strengthening health systems. Despite tremendous improvements in health indicators, about 15 lakh children die before their fifth birthday every year. Many more suffer from debilitating diseases affecting their growth and quality of life.
Gandhi said India accounted for more than half of the global burden of polio in 2009. With intensive effort and resolute political will, India has remained polio free for more than two years now. Over 23 lakh volunteers under 1.7 lakh supervisors administer polio drops to about 17 crore children in one nation-wide round, which is the largest exercise in the world. There are 8.80 lakh ASHAs acting as a strong interface between the health system and the community. UPA 1 introduced Janani Suraksha Yojana in 2005 to encourage institutional deliveries by giving cash assistance to pregnant women as incentives. Building on the success of the JSY scheme, Janani Shishu Suraksha karyakram was launched in 2011 to eliminate out-of-pocket expenses for both pregnant women and sick neonates. Under this scheme, every pregnant woman is entitled to absolutely free delivery, including caesarean section, in public health institutions now. Besides the free ante-natal and post-natal check-ups, the scheme provides for free diagnostics, free medicines, free consumables, free food during hospital stay, free caesarean section and free blood, if required and free transport to health facility and drop back home.
Gandhi said Mother and Child Tracking System (MCTS) has been put in place to reach out to every pregnant woman for proper care during pregnancy and to every child for proper vaccination. A BPO type system has been set up in the Health Ministry to verify data and give information about check-ups and immunization schedule. A new scheme has been initiated for the promotion of menstrual hygiene among adolescent girls in rural areas. It covers 1.5 crore girls in the age group of 10-19 years in 152 districts of 20 states. To address the growing burden of non-communicable diseases particularly diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer a National Programme was initiated in 100 districts in 21 States for screening of persons above 30 years and pregnant mothers for early detection, control and treatment of diabetes, hypertension and cancer. Under the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana, 6 new AIIMS have been established at Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Jodhpur, Patna, Raipur and Rishikesh, each with a 976 bedded hospital with 42 super specialty departments and a medical college. In Phase II of PMSSY, 2 new AIIMS will come up at Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh and Raiganj in West Bengal. Besides this, up-gradation of 19 medical colleges with super-specialty blocks has been taken up across the country under PMSSY.
Gandhi said the initial three years of a child’s life are most critical from the point of view of physical and cognitive development. Regular health screening and early intervention can yield rich dividends. Around 15 lakh children are born with defects, which contributes to 10% of neonatal mortality in our country. Many children suffer from developmental delays, diseases and deficiencies specific to childhood which, if unattended, become severely debilitating and a source of suffering for the entire family. With the launch of the Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram, regular health screening of children in public health facilities, Aanganwadis and Government and Government aided schools for defects at birth, diseases, deficiencies and development disorders will be done now. This programme will cover 25 crore children all over the country in a phased manner and provide for free follow up management and treatment at the district hospitals and at tertiary levels. She hoped that all State Governments would march in step with the Central Government and take proactive steps to roll out the screening and intervention services at the earliest to improve the survival, health and overall development of children.
Addressing the programme, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare said Smt. Gandhi has been always at the forefront in areas of public health, whether it is the flagging off the Red Ribbon Express to spread awareness against HIV/AIDS or the launch of the Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakram to provide cashless healthcare to pregnant women and sick newborns during institutional deliveries. We are indeed privileged to have her with us at the National Launch of the Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram today. Continuum of care extending over different phases of the life over the first 18 years would improve the quality of life of children in our country, Azad added.