On April7, 2023, World Health Organization (WHO) turns 75. The day marks the coming together of countries across the world to establish WHO in 1948 to promote health, serve the vulnerable and respond to global health challenges as one, so that everyone, everywhere could attain the highest level of health and well-being. Ever since, April 7 is observed as World Health Day.

India became a party to the WHO Constitution on January 12, 1948. It hosts the WHO South-East Asia Regional Office in Delhi and the first session of the WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia was held on October 4-5, 1948 in the office of the country’s then minister of health. WHO Country Office for India supports national and state governments innovate, accelerate and sustain actions on public health priorities and disease-elimination goals.

Following the lead

India has built on its many public health successes—including the elimination of smallpox, polio, maternal and neonatal tetanus, and yaws—by rolling out diverse programmes to strengthen the quality and reach of public health services. Under the government’s flagship programme, Ayushman Bharat, over 1,50,000 Health and Wellness Centres to provide comprehensive primary health care across the country, while the ‘Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana’ provides insurance/assurance to over 500 million beneficiaries.

The reach of quality services is being further expanded through Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission, under which around 25 crore (250 million) health records of individuals have been linked to their Ayushman Bharat Health Account to ensure continuity in access to health services at all levels, everywhere. The ‘Pradhan Mantri Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission’ (PM-ABHIM) aims to focus on building resilient systems to effectively respond to public health emergencies.

The ‘One Health’ approach for multi-sectoral action has been adopted in mission mode for disease prevention and promotion through the roll-out of the ‘Jal Jeevan Mission’ for the provision of safe water to every household, ‘Swachh Bharat’ to promote sanitation, and ‘Ujjwala Yojana’ to provide clean cooking fuel to rural families. India has also prioritised the elimination of tuberculosis and neglected tropical diseases such as lymphatic filariasis, leprosy and kala-azar; achieving over 90 percent full immunization coverage nationwide; and providing treatment for the screening and management of noncommunicable diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, among others.

India’s comprehensive and coordinated pandemic response—including the rapid expansion of its testing, tracking and treatment capacities, scaling-up of its laboratory infrastructure, development of a ‘Made in India’ vaccine, and rolling out one of the world’s largest Covid-19 vaccination campaigns that delivered one billion vaccines in 10 months—has demonstrated its capacity for planned and coordinated action to achieve public health goals at scale.

India’s G20 presidency is an opportunity to accelerate action to build health system resilience to prevent, diagnose, manage and treat existing and emerging diseases, and mitigate the health and socio-economic impacts of emergencies for equitable and sustainable development. India can, and will, lead the world in building back resilient health systems to prepare for pandemics and disasters, and achieve health for all.

The writer is WHO’s Representative to India. Views are personal.