The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $300 million loan to strengthen and improve access to comprehensive primary health care in urban areas in India.
The onset of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has put pressure and revealed weaknesses in India’s health care system. In response, the government launched the Pradhan Mantri Atmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana (PM-ASBY) to strengthen public health systems and respond to future pandemics and other emergencies.
The Strengthening Comprehensive Primary Health Care in Urban Areas Program will support the Ayushman Bharat (the Healthy India Initiative) Health and Wellness Centres (AB-HWC) and PM-ASBY to ensure equitable access to quality comprehensive primary health care services in urban areas in 13 states. The program will benefit an estimated 256 million urban residents, including 51 million from the slum areas of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and West Bengal.
“India has made impressive gains in ensuring access to and quality of health services for all. However, COVID-19 has shown us that challenges remain and we need to do more and address these issues,” said ADB Principal Social Sector Specialist for South Asia Gi Soon Song. “This program aims to meet not only the medical needs of the urban population, but also the physical and mental health and wellbeing of the target beneficiaries.”
The program will strengthen the institutional capacity, operation, and management of urban health and wellness centers at the central, state, and municipal levels. It aims to address the ongoing COVID-19 challenges while ensuring continuous provision of nonCOVID-19 health services. It will conduct awareness and education campaigns on health and nutrition, including preventive measures and strategies. Delivery and health information systems for primary health care will be upgraded through digital tools, quality assurance mechanisms, and engagement and partnership with the private sector.
In addition to the loan, a $2 million technical assistance grant from ADB’s Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction will provide technical support for program implementation and coordination, capacity building, innovation, and application of new knowledge to the health care system.