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    Health Minister Speaks of Long-Awaited Incentives for ASHA Workers

    HealthCOVID-19Health Minister Speaks of Long-Awaited Incentives for ASHA Workers
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    Health Minister Speaks of Long-Awaited Incentives for ASHA Workers

    ASHA, or Accredited Social Health Activists have been demanding better remuneration for the past many years, but the health minister did not make any announcement on this long pending demand of the ASHA workers, save the mention of incentivisation.

    Chairing the seventh meeting of Mission Steering Group (MSG) of National Health Mission (NHM), union minister for health and family welfare, Dr Mansukh Mandaviya noted that India is the only country in the world with a four-layer health infrastructure in place with a 10-lakh strong ASHA workforce at the grassroots. “These powerful foot soldiers of our health force have played a pivotal role in India’s COVID management and COVID vaccination campaigns”.

    It was decided to incentivize ASHA for creation and seeding of ABHA IDs in various IT portals of the ministry of health and family welfare. But there was no mention of the exact nature and the quantum of the incentive. (ABHA, or the Ayushman Bharat Health Account is a 14-digit number that uniquely identifies participant in India’s digital healthcare ecosystem.)

    The health minister added that strengthening incentivisation of the healthcare workers who work with communities at the cutting edge can give an impetus to various programmes. He underscored moving ahead with sharpened focus on timely elimination of diseases such Kala Azar and Leptospirosis, as these diseases largely impact the poorest households and communities in the country.

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    ASHA, or Accredited Social Health Activists have been demanding better remuneration for the past many years, but the health minister did not make any announcement on this long pending demand of the ASHA workers, save the mention of incentivisation.

    Notable achievements

    India is the only country in the world with a four-layer health infrastructure in place, Dr Mansukh Mandaviya said, adding that the workforce of ASHAs at the grossroots are powerful foot soldiers.

    “These powerful soldiers of our health force have played a pivotal role in India’s COVID management and COVID vaccination campaigns,” the health minister said.

    The minister spoke of a number of achievements of the government on the health front, in many of which the ASHA workers play a pivotal role. For instance, the minister alluded to the decline by 453 points in the country’s maternal mortality ratio (MMR) – from 556 per one lakh live births in 1990 to 103 in 2017-19. He said that seven states have achieved the SDG target of MMR.

    Similarly, Under-5 Mortality Rate (U5MR) too has declined from 126 per 1000 live births in 1990 to 35 per 1000 live births in 2019, he said, adding that eight states have achieved the SDG target of U5MR.

    In both cases, the ASHAs have played a central role that is well documented by various government and academic bodies.

    Additionally, the MSG discussed malnutrition among children, awareness and capacity for prevention and control of snakebite and reviewed the status of Prime Minister National Dialysis Programme.

    The NHM mission steering group also discussed prevalence of sickle cell disease among the country’s tribal population and it was decided to implement sickle cell screening programme in mission mode. It was also decided that all necessary actions will be taken up to end tuberculosis by 2025.

    Besides ASHA workers, the NHM has helped beef up the human resources in health with support for 3.16 lakh health workers, including doctors, nurses and lab technicians among others (but excluding ASHA workers) in states and union territories.

    Notably, the MSG was informed that the major interventions in health have led to reduction of out-of-pocket-expenditure (OOPE) from 69.4 per cent to 48.8 per cent as per NHA estimates.

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