Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health, has described his meeting with the United States Secretary for Health and Human Services, Ms Syliva Mathews Burwell, in Washington today as one of strategic importance given the commitment in both governments’ agenda for pro-poor and holistic public health services. Both are newly installed ministers and their meeting led to the striking of an immediate rapport. Dr Harsh Vardhan has already announced his intentions of making health a people’s movement with specific thrust on better prediction and surveillance systems against disease outbreaks, environmental and occupational health, integrated medicine and, above all, health insurance. “I think India has a lot to learn from the Obamacare experiment because it has succeeded in bringing under insurance cover the poorest sections of the American population. So it was an honour to confer with the person who will be its chief implementer,” Dr Harsh Vardhan said afterwards.
Dr Harsh Vardhan presented his American counterpart with a copy of his book, “A tale of two drops”, which documents the full story of India’s pulse-polio mission which he had conceived as Delhi’s Health Minister in the early 1990s and eventually led to India being declared polio free by WHO in 2014. The two ministers reviewed progress on the progress of the Indo-US Health Initiative which was launched in 2010. Five working groups focussing on Maternal & Child Health, Non-Communicable diseases, Human Resources for Health, Infectious Diseases and Strengthening Health Systems and Services have been constituted under the agreement.
Dr Harsh Vardhan said the government was keen on intensive and extensive collaboration with the United States in varied areas of health care. These include Cancer care and research, in the setting up of schools of public health at the All India Institutes of Medical Sciences, on deepening research collaboration in studies on environment and occupational health, on instituting better human and technical resources for data analysis, benefitting from latest research on Encephalitis, sharing strategies for preventive health care (national prevention strategy), tobacco control and promotion of healthy lifestyle and instituting best practices in health care delivery.
Health Insurance, one of the greatest achievements of the Obama administration in the United States through “Obamacare”, is a personal mission of Dr Harsh Vardhan as well. He invited Ms Burwell to visit India as part of deepening the collaboration process. The Indian delegation included Ambassador Mr. S Jaishanker, Joint Secretary Dr. Rakesh Kumar and Mr. Tarun Mohindra, Counsellor Science and Technology. The US side had Dr Anand Parekh, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Health and Mr Jimmy Kolker, Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs, among others.