Dr Vinod Paul is an internationally renowned paediatrician, academic, medical researcher and public health exponent, especially newborn health. A member of NITI Aayog, he leads the health and nutrition verticals. In a conversation with Damayanti Datta, Dr Paul talks about healthcare initiatives such as Ayushman Bharat and Poshan Abhiyaan, and how to resolve the problem of malnutrition. Edited excerpts:
Several key reforms of the Centre address the health, wellbeing and nutrition of vulnerable people, yet rarely do we hear of them spoken together. Why is that?
We need to talk more about them together because one without the others is incomplete. First, you must appreciate that Ayushman Bharat has two pillars: one relates to primary healthcare and the other to financial protection for health expenditure in secondary and tertiary care hospitalisation. Both are complementary. Poshan Abhiyaan targets stunting, undernutrition and anaemia, particularly among children and women. Bringing their incidence down to 25 per cent of children by the year 2022 is our goal. All these should be seen together, but it is often the more visible health protection scheme that gets attention in the media even though the same Budget speech expressed commitment to both. They are linked and primary healthcare is perhaps even more important overall because it has to do with disease prevention, early detection, treatment and a nirogi (disease-free) society. That’s the bedrock of our future health system.
The vision of ambitious large-scale changes are often clear to policymakers, but not so obvious to others. How do you see the connect between these policies?