Bill Gates Meets Nitish, to Work Together on Key Health Issues

Bill Gates Meets Nitish, to Work Together on Key Health Issues

Bill Gates, co-chair and trustee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, met Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar here today and discussed ways to work together on key health indicators like family planning and immunisation for the next five years.

The foundation offered commitment to work together on areas of health like maternal, neo-natal and child health, nutrition, infectious diseases management (diarrohea, pneumonia and tuberculosis) and elimination of Kala-azar, and enhance support through technical assistance in sanitation, digital financial inclusion as well as agriculture.

"We stand committed to work collaboratively with the government for the next five years to help achieve their public health and development goals," Gates said.

In addition to the CM, the meeting was also attended by Chief Secretary Anjani Kumar Singh, R K Mahajan, Principal Secretary Health, S M Raju, Secretary, Social Welfare and Chanchal Kumar, Secretary to the Chief Minister among others.

Gates was joined by key members of his India leadership team.

The Bihar government had in the past successfully partnered with the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation to eliminate polio disease from the state.

Commenting on the meeting, Kumar said health and nutrition were critical indexes of Bihar's progress.

"The state government is committed to ensure equitable health and nutrition services and increased health financing to bring about greater improvements in health and nutrition outcomes so that we can make a significant difference to all," Kumar was quoted in an official statement.

"We need to strengthen our health system so that marginalised communities can receive universal healthcare. We will continue working closely with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to accomplish our health, nutrition and development goals," he said.

Further, to enhance the state's efforts to reduce neo-natal mortality, the Chief Minister said his government was open to the suggestion of involvement of high quality private sector operators, under requisite public private partnerships (PPP) to deliver high quality neonatal care through SNCUs (Special Newborn Care Units).

He said the state was willing to look into attractive contracting and payment systems for which he requested the Foundation to provide technical support.

Kumar assured the Foundation of bringing structural changes in the Public Health systems.

Officials from Bihar Administrative Services and from Department of Health may be deputed in the Foundation supported technical support unit (TSU) to gain knowledge and experience about global best practices which can be then replicated in Bihar, the CM said.

In order to bring about systemic changes in the health system, it was agreed that these officials would be posted in the department for longer periods of time, the statement said.

It was also decided that a similar model like the state TSU should be set up at the district level to provide support to the district and block level officials.

The meeting also concluded that services of top global subject experts would be made available to the Departments, through the Foundation, so that appropriate policy inputs and Bihar-specific programme designs could be conceptualised and implemented.

Highlighting the commitment made through "seven determinations", Kumar reiterated that the Health sector will always remain a top priority area for him and his government.

Kumar said he was totally committed to the fulfilment of the Human Skill development mission goals and his entire team of officers has been given very clear directions to ensure that these goals are met, with quality, in the designated time frames.

The Chief Minister informed Gates that his government was committed to address the issues of open defecation by agreeing to construct toilets and provide clean drinking water in each household and providing drains and roads in each village all of which have substantial impact on health outcomes.

He requested Gates to look into the aspect of providing technological solutions to put in place enabling payment systems so that the Health workers and the general public at large could benefit from direct cash transfers with no loss of time or leakages of any sort.

Congratulating Kumar on his re-election and commenting on the Foundation's partnership with the government, Gates said, "It is heartening to see the significant progress Bihar has made in improving its health and nutrition outcomes especially for women, mothers, newborns and children under five years."

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been working closely with the Government of Bihar and other partners since 2010 to improve equitable access to public health and nutrition services to mothers and children across the state.


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