Health is a human right, but it is still not realized for far too many people around the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at least half of the world’s population lacks access to essential health services, and 100 million people are pushed into extreme poverty each year due to out-of-pocket health expenses. To close those gaps and give everyone a fair chance at a healthy life, the world has set an ambitious target to achieve universal health coverage (UHC) by 2030. But the critical pathway to achieving UHC lies in strengthening and reimagining Primary Health Care (PHC) through a people-centered, data-driven approach that gives everyone a fair chance at health and well-being.
In order to accelerate India’s progress towards UHC, the Government of India announced the ambitious program called ‘Ayushman Bharat’. One of the two components of the Ayushman Bharat is Health and Wellness Centers (HWCs) which is the key initiative for delivery of comprehensive primary healthcare. Keeping in mind the changing disease burden, these centres are envisaged to provide a comprehensive package of 12 services and provide an expanded list of essential medicines and diagnostics. Close to 160,000 primary level facilities have been strengthened as Health and Wellness Centres. More than 11,000 HWCs are coming up in urban areas in the next 3 years which will cater to a population of 15,000-20,000 each.
PHC or primary health care covers about 80% of a person’s health needs during their lifetime. Strong PHC is the first and best line of defence against any health threats, such as antimicrobial resistance, climate change or even viruses like COVID-19.