India has crossed a landmark milestone on the journey of universal healthcare. More than 50,000 (50,025) Ayushman Bharat – Health and Wellness Centres (AB-HWCs) are now operational across the country. “Aiming at providing Comprehensive Primary Health Care (CPHC) services to the communities closer to their homes, 1.5 lakh AB-HWCs are to be established by December 2022. With more than 50,000 having been established, one-third of the target has been met. This has led to improved access to affordable primary healthcare services for more than 25 crore people,” according to the press release issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare congratulated the States/UTs for their efforts in operationalizing the HWCs despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. “This has been possible due to the joint efforts of the Center and the States/UTs in planning, monitoring at all levels, standardization of processes, the flexibility for adaptation provided to the States/UTs, and building on the health systems created thus far”, he stated.

The Union Health Minister especially thanked the frontline health workers, the Medical Officers, the Community Health Officers and ASHAs for their dedication to the cause of providing Comprehensive Primary Health Care services and for supporting millions of people with necessary services in these difficult times. “They are the backbone of the healthcare delivery system. Their contribution during the COVID-19 period has been exemplary”, he said.
However, the national capital, Delhi will not be implementing the program.

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“HWCs have helped in interventions such as risk communication, contact tracing, community surveillance and early identification of cases, and seamless provisioning of non-COVID-19 essential health services for ensuring the protection of vulnerable groups, such as the newborn, elderly and those with co-morbidities.”, the press release added.

Ayushman Bharat was launched in 2018 with its twin pillars of Health & Wellness Centers (HWCs) and Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) with bidirectional linkages between the two for providing the full range of services across the continuum of care. The first AB-HWC was launched by Hon. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi on the 14th of April 2018 at Jhangla in Bijapur District of Chhattisgarh.

The 50,025 operational AB-HWCsare now spread across 678 districts, and include 27,890 Sub Health Centres, 18,536 Primary Health Centres and 3,599 Urban Primary Health Centres. Together, these AB-HWC have witnessed over 28.10 crore footfalls of which over 53% per cent are women who sought care at these centres. More than 6.43 crore people have been screened for hypertension, 5.23crore for diabetes and 6.14 crore people for cancers. About 1.0 crore people are being provided free drugs for the treatment of hypertension and about 60 lakhs for diabetes.

The Health & Wellness Centers provide CPHC services to people and sustain the efforts for provision of reproductive, maternal, neonatal, child, adolescent and nutrition (RMNCHA+N) services and control of communicable diseases. They also focus on disease prevention, especially for chronic and non-communicable diseases, wellness through community engagement and creating awareness about health lifestyles, appropriate nutrition and physical activities such as Yoga.

Focus on wellness is one of the novel interventions under the ABHWC Programme. Over 30 lakhs wellness sessions have been conducted at these centers including activities such as Yoga, Zumba, Community Walks, Shirodhara, Meditation etc. HWCs also provide a strong backbone for the implementation of the eSanjeevani platform of Health Ministry which includes the eSanjeevani Patient-to-Doctor OPD and eSanjeevani-HWCwhich provides Doctor-to-Doctor teleconsultation service. 23,103 HWCs have started providing teleconsultation services to citizens. More than 7.5 lakh teleconsultations have already been conducted through these platforms.

The eSanjeevani-HWC was rolled out in November 2019. It is to be implemented in all the 1.5 lakh Health and Wellness Centres in a ‘Hub and Spoke’ model, by December 2022. States need to set up dedicated ‘Hubs’ in Medical Colleges and District hospitals to provide teleconsultation services to ‘Spokes’, i.e. Health & Wellness Centres (HWC). (ANI)