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Issue no 26, 23-29 September 2023

G20 India: Health Track Deliberations and Achievements

Jayanti Jha

In December 2022, as India assumed the prestigious role of G20 Presidency, the global community was grappling with the profound and far-reaching consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Simultaneously, the world was bearing witness to the intricate web of geopolitical tensions unfolding in Ukraine. Against this backdrop of immense complexity and uncertainty, India embarked on its G20 Presidency with a thoughtful and strategic approach.

India's Health Track Priorities were meticulously crafted to not only address the immediate healthcare challenges posed by the pandemic but also to proactively tackle emerging healthcare issues. The overarching aim was to foster a sense of global unity that transcended individual national interests, thus fortifying the collective response to healthcare challenges worldwide.

Three Core Priorities of G20 Health Track:

(i) Health emergencies prevention preparedness and response, with a special emphasis on the 'One Health' concept, which recognises the interconnectedness of human, animal, and environmental health, and the escalating issue of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR).

(ii) Strengthening cooperation in the pharmaceutical sector, with a key focus on ensuring equitable access to and availability of safe, effective, high-quality, and affordable medical counter measures. This encompasses a broad spectrum of critical healthcare tools, including vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.

(iii) Embracing digital health innovations and solutions to advance the cause of universal health coverage and enhance the delivery of healthcare services on a global scale.

The New Delhi Declaration adopted by the G20 Leaders' Summit resoundingly affirms the collective resolve of nations to building a healthier world with the commitment to translate the resolve into concrete actions, including strengthening the global health architecture with the World Health Organization (WHO) at its core. The focus is on creating health systems that are not only more resilient but also more equitable, sustainable, and inclusive. This encompasses the realisation of Universal Health Coverage, the implementation of a 'One-Health' approach that integrates human, animal, and environmental health considerations, the enhancement of pandemic preparedness, and the reinforcement of existing infectious disease surveillance systems.

The G20 Working Group on Health played a pivotal role in this overarching vision. It conducted a series of three meetings across different Indian states: Kerala, Goa, and Telangana. These meetings stood out due to their remarkable attendance levels. These gatherings were instrumental in setting the stage for the culminating event within India's Health Track initiative- ‘the Health Deputies' and Ministers' Meeting’, which took place in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, in August 2023. Building upon the progress made in the preceding meetings, this Meeting served as a platform for the consolidation of efforts. This collaborative spirit led to the unanimous adoption of the Outcome Document and Chair's Summary, further solidifying the commitment of G20 nations to collective action on health-related challenges.

Global Initiative on Digital Health : One noteworthy development that emerged from India's G20 Presidency was the launch of the Global Initiative on Digital Health (GIDH) at the G20 Health Ministers' Meeting in Gandhinagar. This initiative is WHO-managed network, which seeks to address the issue of fragmentation in the digital health landscape. It aims to promote the convergence of digital health initiatives and voluntary funds, all while championing interoperable open-source and open-standard digital solutions, in line with the WHO Global Strategy on Digital Health 2020-2025. By providing guidance and recommendations on effective practices and standards, GIDH aims to consolidate past and ongoing progress in digital health. It also aims to coordinate its efforts with existing multinational organisations to promote a repository of quality-assured digital health solutions transparently.

Joint Health and Finance Track : Under India's G20 Presidency, the Joint Health and Finance Track emerged as a focal point of collaboration. The inaugural G20 Health Ministerial Meeting was co-chaired by Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman, Union Minister for Finance, and Dr. Mansukh Mandaviya, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare, in August. In the course of discussions, the Finance and Health Ministers of G20 nations reaffirmed their commitment to fortifying the global health architecture for Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response (PPR) by way of enhanced collaboration between the Finance and Health Ministries under the Joint Finance and Health Task Force (JFHTF). The ministers also welcomed the successful conclusion of the First Call for Proposals of the Pandemic Fund. Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman, underlined the significant progress made in enhancing collaboration between Finance and Health, which would be continued in the future.

Global Summit on Traditional Medicine : Parallel to the G20 Health Ministers' Meeting, the World Health Organization (WHO) hosted its first-ever Global Summit on Traditional Medicine. Co-hosted by the Ministry of Ayush, the Summit focused on exploring the role of traditional complementary and integrative medicine in addressing pressing health challenges and advancing global health and sustainable development. The keynote address was delivered by Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization. This summit attracted participation from a multitude of countries, underscoring the global interest in traditional medicine's contributions to healthcare.

Gandhinagar Declaration on Tuberculosis : Throughout the G20 Health Track, 17 co-branded events were organised, covering diverse subjects ranging from adolescent health and tuberculosis to Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and Medical Value Travel (MVT). One of the most notable outcomes of these co-branded events was the Gandhinagar Declaration on Tuberculosis. This declaration acknowledged the persistent challenges in achieving the 2020 milestones set by the 'End TB Strategy' and the coverage targets established during the UN High-Level Meeting on TB (UNHLM-TB) in New York in September 2018, particularly in the South-East Asia Region. The Health Track expressed confidence in the region's ability to end TB by 2030 through concerted and synergistic actions, supported by partners, stakeholders, and communities.

Advantage Healthcare India Portal : Another significant initiative arising from these events was the 'Advantage Healthcare India' portal. Launched at a co-branded event, this portal aims to facilitate the mobility of both patients and healthcare personnel, thereby promoting access to quality healthcare services across the globe. Additionally, the '75/25' initiative, which aims to screen and provide standard care for 75 million people with hypertension and diabetes by 2025, was unveiled with a community-based approach starting at the primary healthcare level.

The COVID-19 pandemic served as a stark reminder of the fundamental importance of good health, which forms the bedrock of human life. India's G20 Presidency was dedicated to laying a stronger foundation not just for itself but for the global community at large. Guided by the overarching theme of "One Earth, One Family, One Future," Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi encapsulated the essence of this mission in his virtual address to the Health Minister's Meeting. He concluded with an ancient Sanskrit proverb: AROGYAM PARAMAM “BHAGYAM, SWASTHYAM SARVARTH SAADHNAM” - Health is the ultimate wealth, enabling the accomplishment of every task. G20 India's Health Track is firmly rooted in the aspiration to help the world achieve this ultimate wealth.

The author is Assistant Director, Media & Communication M/o Health. You can send us your feedback on this article at feedback.employmentnews@gmail.com

Views expressed are personal.