World Health Day; Local bodies and healthy cities

World Health Day observed under the auspices of the World Health Organization on April 7 every year is an opportunity to draw global attention to the subject of public health. The Day has been observed every year since 1948, for seventy long years now. The Theme for 2018 was ‘Universal Health Coverage: everyone, everywhere’. “Health is a human right. No one should get sick and die just because they are poor, or because they cannot access the health service they need,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on the eve of this year’s Day. Good health enables an individual, the family and the community to participate actively in the economy and derive benefits, and thus provide for oneself and the family a good quality of life. No one should be denied this opportunity.

Healthcare in India is currently provided largely by the private sector with nearly 70 percent of the population dependent on it. Public healthcare has been marked by several shortcomings, mainly by the lack of adequate well-trained and motivated manpower. However, things are set to change with the launch of ‘Ayushman Bharat’. Wishing people on the occasion of World Health Day Prime Minister Modi said,“…It is the quest for Health For All that inspired us to create Ayushman Bharat, the largest health care programme in the world.” The Scheme will cover about 10 crore families (about 50 crore individuals) providing coverage of upto Rs 5 lakh per family per year.

Public health is an important part of the services provided by local bodies. In several large cities some public hospitals are run by the municipal body sometimes in partnership with private players. However, in cities there is a marked deficit of Primary Health Centres and this role is played by the larger hospitals increasing their workload.

This needs to be addressed. An important aspect of municipal healthcare service is its focus on subjects like immunization, vector-borne disease control and communicable disease control. These are linked to other services such as water supply, sanitation, and waste management, all provided by the municipalities themselves. In addition to proper control of these services, disease prevention programmes call for significant amount of public awareness building and mass contact with local communities. These are best achieved by the local bodies as they are closest to the population and better aware of local circumstances. Therefore they are well equipped to address the disease prevention role of public healthcare and achieve superior outcomes for long-term sustainable improvement in public health. We believe that municipal bodies should continue to strengthen their focus on such disease prevention and control measures more so since the private healthcare mechanism does not address the preventive side. We are sure that local bodies will have a prominent role to play as the Ayushman Bharat programme is rolled out.

In this issue of Urban Update, we deal with the subject of municipal services. We have also covered the ‘Smart Urbanation’ event held in Hyderabad in March; and of course our regular columns. We hope that this issue too will contribute towards more livable cities and sustainable urbanization in India. We shall be happy to receive your feedback and suggestions.

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