WHO India Country Cooperation Strategy 2019–2023

Non-Aligned Movement has emphasised the importance of evolving partnerships between a variety of stakeholders at the local, national, regional and global levels aimed at addressing the multifaceted determinants of global health and the commitments and initiatives to accelerate progress on the health-related internationally agreed development goals, including the Sustainable Development Goals. In this context, NAM recognises the vital role played by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in addressing the health-related challenges of the developing nations.

One of the important mechanisms of the WHO is the WHO Country Cooperation Strategies (CCS). The CCS is a document to guide WHO’s work in countries. CCS is a medium-term vision for WHO’s technical cooperation with a given Member State, and supports the country’s national health policy, strategy or plan. The CCS time frame is flexible to align with national cycles and processes. It is the basis for aligning WHO’s collaboration with other United Nations bodies and development partners at the country level.

India, one of the prominent NAM Member States, gives primacy to healthcare in the development agenda. India became a party to the WHO Constitution on 12 January 1948. As part of Indian commitment to provide better healthcare for its population, India’s Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare Dr Harsh Vardhan recently launched the ‘The WHO India Country Cooperation Strategy 2019–2023: A Time of Transition’. The Country Cooperation Strategy (CCS) provides a strategic roadmap for WHO to work with the Government of India towards achieving its health sector goals, in improving the health of its population and bringing in transformative changes in the health sector.

WHO India CCS has four strategic priorities: The first priority is accelerating progress on Universal Health Care. This strategy focuses on all aspects of health service delivery, including efforts in expanding population access to effective comprehensive primary health care; enacting health financing reforms; improving the availability and quality of specific health programmes; eliminating NTDs; controlling vaccine-preventable and vector-borne diseases; and improving maternal and child health services. Implementing Ayushman Bharat and strengthening of the digital health ecosystem are the main focus areas under this strategic priority. The second priority is promoting health and wellness by addressing determinants of health: This strategic priority covers a wide range of issues that affect health and wellness – from the risk factors of NCDs such as unhealthy diets, tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol and physical inactivity – to depression and other mental illnesses, air pollution, poor sanitation and waste management. One of the focus areas of this strategic priority is the rolling-out of National Multisectoral Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Common Noncommunicable Diseases (2017-22).

The third priority is ensuring better protection of the population against health emergencies. This agenda addresses a broad set of threats to local, national and global health security. These threats include infectious and emerging disease outbreaks and pandemics due to pathogens such as Ebola virus, Nipah virus, pandemic influenza viruses, and Zika virus, as well as the longer-term challenge of AMR. They also include natural disasters, including those associated with climate variability and change; emergencies resulting from conflict and forced migration; and industrial and technological hazards. Disease surveillance and outbreak detection and response, preparedness for, and response to, all emergencies and strengthening Antimicrobial resistance are the focus areas of this strategic priority.

The fourth strategic priority pertains to enhancing India’s global leadership in health. Under this priority, WHO will continue to assist national and state regulators in developing and implementing institutional development plans to strengthen their regulatory capacity and systems, including for medical devices. Also, essential to assuring quality are efforts to improve and expand safety monitoring of medical products at health facilities. In this regard, WHO will assist in establishing and strengthening safety monitoring systems, with a focus on new drugs for TB, HIV, malaria and NTDs. In addition, WHO will advocate for and support efforts to strengthen safety monitoring systems for traditional medicine, as well as national policies regarding access, quality and use of traditional medical products and technologies.

The WHO India CCS thus outlines how the WHO can support the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare and other allied Ministries to drive impact at the country level. The strategy document also builds on other key strategic policy documents including India’s National Health Policy 2017, the many pathbreaking initiatives India has introduced — from Ayushman Bharat to its National Viral Hepatitis programme and promotion of digital health amongst others.

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