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International Women’s Health Day

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Dr. Bharati Pravin Pawar
“We all know the saying: If you educate a man, you educate an individual; but if you educate a woman you educate an entire family. Our Government, under the guidance of PM Narendra Modi has translated that into ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’, a programme that focuses on the girl child and on giving her the best quality of life and education.
Today, I am proud to celebrate International Women’s Health day tohonor all women in my country, and all the progress made in women’s health, especially by our government since 2014, and attribute this to political commitment, strategic and inclusive policies and significant investment in the National Health Mission (NHM) under the visionary leadership of our Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Women’s health is closely tied to the continuum of care concept. It is a crucial inter play of adolescence, pre-pregnancy and pregnancy factors such as reproductive and sexual health, nutrition along with ante-natal care, child birth and post-partum care and access to contraception and safe abortion services, spanning through the journey of menopause and elderly care.
We perpetually see women multi-tasking, managing multiple roles, trying to be ‘perfect mom and caregiver’, a perfect wife, a perfect boss, a perfect employee, and much more. Many times, her daily journey is encountered with unrealistic expectations and demand. This makes it imperative to provide easy access to healthcare within the comfort of their surroundings. Also, mental health for women warrants equal attention.
This augments our vision to have Ayushman Bharat- Health and Wellness Centres (AB-HWCs) operationalized in vicinity of the community, and this intent is translating into reality in a mission mode. I am proud to share that more than 50% of tele- consultations on Government of India’s E-Sanjeevani platform have been taken by women.
Furthermore, women have been at the forefront of the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. Their role has been pivotal in increasing and maintaining the community confidence during pandemic related restrictions, continuity of essential services and particularly for Covid-19 vaccination. I emphasize strongly on the well-timed decision of including pregnant women into the Covid-19 vaccination cohort, thus upholding the health of pregnant women as a priority during the pandemic.
Talking about pregnancy care, India as a country subscribes to the idea of normal birth and labor and is foraging towards cementing normal birth and labor as a core practice in our health systems. We are doing that by introducing professional midwifery education and services in the country.
I had recently written on the country’s ambitious Midwifery Initiative and how ‘midwifery led care’ shall promote cultural awareness in birth practices, respect woman’s autonomy, preferences and choices during child birth, overall contributing to a positive birthing experience.
Strategic policies like Anemia Mukt Bharat by MoHFW has been designed and implemented to reduce prevalence of anemia among children, adolescents and women and POSHANAbhiyaan by MoWCD lays emphasis on nutritional status of adolescent girls, pregnant women, lactating mothers and children from 0-6 years age. Both programmes, through use of technology, convergence and community involvement with a targeted approach strives to reduce the level of stunning, under-nutrition, anemia and low birth weight in children, as also focus on adolescent girls, pregnant women and lactating mothers, thus holistically addressing malnutrition.
Today we have brought the Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) down to 103 as per SRS 2017-19 from 556 in the year 1990. India is currently on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 3 (SDG 3) target of an MMR below 70 by 2030
Remarkable gains have been made under quality-of-care endeavours by Government of India like Pradhan MantriSurakshitMatritvaAbhiyan and Labour Room Quality Improvement Initiative (LaQshya) in conjunction with the existing schemes like Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakram and Janani Suraksha Yojana. Additionally, flagship schemes by MoWCD such as the Pradhan Mantri MatruVandanaYojana (PMMVY) and PoshanAbhiyan target nutrition delivery for vulnerable populations, particularly pregnant and nursing women and children. The achievement also bolsters encourages Government of India’s resolve to ‘Surakshit Matritva Aashwasan’ for the women by creating a responsive health care system which strives to achieve zero preventable maternal and newborn deaths.
When this government assumed office in 2014, “India was losing more than 44,000 mothers”. The Centre then launched the “Pradhan Mantri Surakshit MatritvaAbhiyan”, as part of which doctors pledged one day of service per month to this campaign and 16 million ante-natal care check-ups were performed.
Pradhan Mantri Matru VandanaYojana is expected to benefit more than 50 million pregnant women and lactating mothers. The scheme enables direct benefit transfer to their bank accounts to compensate for wage loss, enable better nutrition and adequate rest before and after delivery.
Our Government has also increased the maternity leave to 26 weeks, from the 12 weeks earlier, as a significant step towards improving women’s health
Talking about his government’s efforts for women empowerment and providing better healthcare to women, In an occasion, PM Modi mentioned providing sanitary pads to poor women at a low cost through Janaushadhi Kendras. Sharing the achievement of his government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that this government has also been persistently concerned about the better healthcare for poor sisters and daughters. Our Government has done a huge job to providing sanitary pads at one rupee each in Janaushadhi Kendra.
My message is clear for all women- ‘Practice self-care, become advocates for your own health’. After all, sustained development of the country can be achieved only if we take holistic care of our women by recognizing the financial, social, geographical determiners of the health with dual focus on prevention and treatment, including health promotion, education and referral services. Healthy and empowered women are better able to contribute to the economic productivity of their own generation and for generations to come.
(The author is Minister of State, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare)

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