COVID-19 pandemic will not be the last one and therefore, emergency preparedness is an overarching priority that requires building of resilient health systems across the world to protect people in the face of similar crises, India said on Wednesday during the G20 Health Working Group meeting here.
Pointing to the need to respond together each time when such threats to global health emerge, Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Bharati Pravin Pawar said it was essential to ally with emerging scientific evidence, diversify our capacities and capabilities and strengthen the early warning systems.
She said that emergency preparedness was no longer an initiative in isolation, but rather “an overarching priority” which “requires efforts to build resilient health systems horizontally and vertically across the world”.
“In an increasingly interconnected world we need to ensure that our communities are resilient and have equal opportunities to protect themselves in the face of a crisis.
“The principle of equity and equitable support must be non-negotiable in our pursuit for health security,” she stressed in her keynote address at the G20 India Health Working Group meeting.
Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya also tweeted about the meeting.
“My Ministerial Colleagues @DrBharatiPPawarJi & @VMBJP Ji inaugurated the G20 Health Working group meeting. I heartily welcome all the delegates in Kerala, India. India as part of its #G20 Presidency will work towards creating a healthier world & ensuring health equity globally,” he said.
The first Health Working Group meeting under G20 India Presidency is underway presently and will conclude on January 20. India assumed the presidency of the G20 on December 1 last year.
Pawar said that during the two-day long meeting of the Working Health Group, the aim would be to “realign our politics and policies”.
“We must invest collectively and the investment must start today.”
The minister noted that the Indian presidency will aim to build on the efforts and proposals laid down by previous Health Working Groups and G20 leaders.
“It will include strengthening our healthcare, prioritising one-health, emergency preparedness, ensuring equitable distribution of life saving vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics, and utilising digital health as an instrument to aid universal health coverage,” she said.
The G20 countries have to collectively strive to evolve and present the world with a “harmonised blueprint for the fundamental architecture of global health scheme and health emergency management duly avoiding duplication and fragmentation”.
“In effect, it involves states that speak to each other and supplement each other in safeguarding our well being and empowering our communities to deal with future health emergency risks.
“The viability of universal health coverage aided with digital innovation will be the key,” she said.
The minister also pointed out that health crises have a direct link to economic crises and urged everyone at the meeting to consider pandemic policy as a defining feature of health policies.
She further said that through the years as understanding and experience of health crises evolved, “we now know that pandemic prevention, preparedness and response requires diverse multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral coordination”.
Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan, who also addressed the meeting, spoke about the strong public health tradition that Kerala has.
He said that in 1813 a vaccination department was established in Thiruvananthapuram by the Travancore Queen Her Highness Rani Gouri Lakshmi bai.
“It was against smallpox. As people showed signs of fear against vaccination, the queen set herself as an example by getting all members of the Royal family vaccinated first, to reassure her subjects. That is our legacy and it is apt to have this meeting here,” he said.
Muraleedharan recalled that Kerala had social reformers like Sree Narayana Guru, Chattambi Swamikal, Saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara, all of whom stressed on the point of education and health.
“The modern Kerala model of health system evolved from this strong premise,” he said.
The Health Track of the G20 India Presidency will comprise four Health Working Group (HWG) Meetings and one Health Ministerial Meeting (HMM).
The meetings will be held in different locations across the country including Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala), Goa, Hyderabad (Telangana) and Gandhinagar (Gujarat), highlighting the Prime Minister’s call to action to showcase India’s rich and diverse cultures.