Following a unique brainstorming initiative earlier this month, the Union Health Ministry is looking at some outside-the-box recommendations, including passbooks for health and wellness centres and a “Lal Path Lab-like” model for diagnostic services.
The recommendations were made by three expert groups — policy labs — put together to grapple with questions about India’s road to Universal Health Coverage.
The policy labs tackled three different questions — how to communitise wellness, comprehensive primary healthcare (CPHC) in urban areas and strengthening service delivery for CPHC. While the focus of the groups was on health and wellness centres, the primary and preventive care arm of Ayushman Bharat, the experts also deliberated on the convergence of the other arm of Ayushman Bharat, Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana, under which families will be provided an annual cover of Rs 5 lakh for secondary and tertiary care procedures.
The ministry had compiled questions whose answers the experts at the policy labs would need to look for. Some of these were how to engage communities better, how to better inter-ministerial convergence, how to look at a continuum of care in urban areas, the role medical colleges need to play and what kind of preparedness is required for the expanded basket of services health and wellness centres aim to provide.
“Universal Health Coverage has become a key global priority so this Universal Health Coverage Day, we looked at the question through policy labs. The idea of policy labs was to look in a structured way at questions we need answers to as we go ahead. So we gave questions to each policy lab and they came out with recommendations, some of them innovative, some drawing from existing models but all focused on finding answers to questions rather than open-ended recommendations. Policy Lab is a tool to bring people-centred design approaches to policy-making,” said a health ministry official.
Among the experts who participated in the policy labs were Niti Aayog member Dr Vinod Paul, Public Health Foundation of India president Dr K Srinath Reddy, Dr V R Murlidharan from IIT Madras, Dr Thelma Narayan, Director, School of Public Health, Equity and Action, and Dr Abhay Shukla, SAATHI, Pune and member of advisory group for community action, National Health Mission.
The questions discussed were identified through regional workshops on operationalisation of health and wellness centres to review progress, assess gaps and understand areas that have to be strengthened.
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