Investing in primary health care (PHC) is crucial for both delivering essential services and detecting pandemics at their early stages, according to WHO’s Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. During his visit to a health and wellness center in Gandhinagar, India, he emphasized the significance of strong PHC systems, pointing out that over 80% of services can be provided at this level, including outbreak detection. Ghebreyesus praised India’s Ayushman Bharat initiative and urged all countries to focus on strengthening their primary healthcare sectors.
Building Resilience through Primary Healthcare Investment
Countries Urged to Invest in Primary Healthcare:
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), stressed the importance of investing in primary health care across countries of all income levels. This investment could provide a wide array of health services and play a crucial role in detecting pandemics at an early stage. Ghebreyesus highlighted that many countries, including those with high incomes, were caught off guard by the COVID-19 pandemic due to insufficient investment in primary healthcare.
Ayushman Bharat Initiative: A Model for Others:
Ghebreyesus lauded India’s Ayushman Bharat initiative as a commendable step in the right direction. The WHO has consistently advocated for investment in primary health care, and India’s initiative aligns with this recommendation. Ayushman Bharat, a flagship scheme aimed at achieving Universal Health Coverage, demonstrates how countries can prioritize strengthening primary healthcare systems.
Detecting Outbreaks and Providing Services:
A robust primary healthcare system serves as the backbone of any health system. It can provide more than 80% of required health services and offers a vital platform for early detection of outbreaks. Ghebreyesus emphasized that outbreaks can be prevented and detected earlier through effective primary healthcare interventions. He urged countries, regardless of their income levels, to recognize that investing in primary healthcare is a strategic decision that can yield significant dividends in public health preparedness.
Transforming Health and Wellness Centers:
During his visit to an Adraj Moti village health and wellness center (HWC) in Gandhinagar district, Ghebreyesus observed firsthand the impact of accessible primary healthcare services. He highlighted the innovative use of telemedicine, which connects patients with doctors remotely. This approach not only ensures essential healthcare services but also reduces the need for long travels and associated expenses for patients.
Vigilance in the Face of New Variants:
Addressing concerns about the EG.5 strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which has been classified as a “variant of interest” by the WHO, Ghebreyesus stressed the importance of continued vigilance. He explained that testing for new variants and monitoring their behavior is crucial. Ghebreyesus emphasized that while the EG.5 variant has gained attention, more variants are expected to emerge, making ongoing monitoring and testing imperative.
Embracing the Tulsi Bhai Moniker:
PM Narendra Modi playfully referred to Ghebreyesus as “Tulsi Bhai” in reference to the medicinal plant, tulsi. Ghebreyesus embraced the nickname and explained that he appreciated the name due to the significant benefits of tulsi. He also shared his involvement in planting tulsi at the wellness center, emphasizing the importance of planting trees to combat climate change.
In conclusion, Ghebreyesus’s call for investing in primary healthcare resonates as a proactive approach not only for addressing routine healthcare needs but also for enhancing pandemic preparedness. The Ayushman Bharat initiative stands as an example of how nations can prioritize building strong primary healthcare systems that benefit all sections of society, from preventive services to timely outbreak detection. As the world faces ongoing health challenges, investing in primary healthcare emerges as a strategic imperative for building a resilient global healthcare framework.