India’s G20 Presidency - Health Track Deliberations and Deliverables.

Jayanti Jha, Assistant Director (IIS), Ministrt of I&B
Jayanti Jha, Assistant Director (IIS), Ministrt of I&B

25 Sep, 2023

When India set out on its G20 Presidency in December last year, the world was recovering from the effects of a global pandemic and was witnessing a geo-political crisis in Ukraine. Hence India set its Health Track Priorities in a manner that aimed to address immediate, as well as emerging healthcare challenges as a strengthened world, acting together, rather than in units working for their own interests. The three Priorities laid out under the Health Track include- Health Emergencies Prevention, Preparedness and Response (with focus on One Health & AMR); Strengthening Cooperation in Pharmaceutical Sector with focus on Access and Availability to Safe, Effective, Quality and Affordable Medical Countermeasures (Vaccines, Therapeutics and Diagnostics); and Digital Health Innovations and Solutions to Aid Universal Health Coverage and Improve Healthcare Service Delivery.

The New Delhi Declaration adopted at the G20 Leaders’ Summit on 9th September, 2023 emphasized the determination of nations towards building a healthier world. They remain committed to strengthening the global health architecture, with the World Health Organization (WHO) at its core, and building more resilient, equitable, sustainable, and inclusive health systems to achieve Universal Health Coverage, implement One Health approach, enhance pandemic preparedness and strengthen existing infectious diseases surveillance systems

Tangible deliverables are a mark of a successful Presidency, and India was aware that successful negotiations under its three Health Priorities could yield results that could benefit the world as a whole in the long term; benefits that would have the potential to outlive its Presidency tenure, but not its significance.

India, under the G20 Health Track, embarked on three Health Working Group Meetings in Kerala, Goa, and Telangana. The Health Working Group Meetings were some of the best attended meetings under India’s G20 Presidency. These meetings paved the way for the concluding meeting under India’s Health Track- the Health Deputies’ and Ministers’ Meeting held in Gandhinagar, Gujarat in August, 2023. The work done in the previous meetings, was further consolidated in the Health Deputies’ and Ministers’ Meeting, which led to the unanimous adoption of the Outcome Document & Chair’s Summary. The Outcome Document was unanimously agreed to by all G20 delegations, except for para 22, which pertained to the Chair’s Summary and was related to a geopolitical issue vis a vis Ukraine. The Outcome Document reaffirmed the commitment of G20 countries to continue strengthening the Global Health Architecture.

Building on the lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, the G20 countries arrived at a consensus to build more resilient, equitable, sustainable and inclusive health systems equipped to address ongoing global health challenges and future public health emergencies. India, when faced with the challenge of the pandemic, employed digital tools like Aarogya Setu, Co-Win, and telemedicine under various initiatives like e-sanjeevani to make healthcare more accessible to all its citizens. The successful implementation of digital technologies in healthcare in India, opened the world to the possibility that digital health tools are important for a better healthcare system and can support the creation of standards-based electronic health records, enable near real-time public health surveillance, personalized care, improve quality of care through clinical decision support systems, enable continuum of care, facilitate self-management of health by patients.

This is reflected in the Global Initiative on Digital Health (GIDH), launched under India’s G20 Presidency at the G20 Health Ministers’ Meeting in Gandhinagar. GIDH will be a WHO managed network, which aims to reduce fragmentation, provide convergence of digital health initiatives and voluntary funds including through promotion of interoperable open source, open standard digital solutions as defined in the WHO Global Strategy on Digital Health 2020-2025. With WHO’s guidance and recommendations on effective practices and standards, it will consolidate past and present gains in digital health, and coordinate work with existing multi-national organizational efforts to promote repository of quality-assured digital health solutions in a transparent manner.

The Joint Health and Finance Track has been a focus area under India’s G20 Presidency. The first Minister level meeting , as part of the Gandhinagar G20 Health Ministerial Meeting, was chaired by Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman, Union Minister for Finance, and Dr. Mansukh Mandaviya, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare in August this year. In the course of discussions in the Meeting, the Finance and Health Ministers expressed their commitment to continue strengthening the global health architecture for pandemic prevention, preparedness and response (PPR) through enhanced collaboration between Finance and Health Ministries under the Joint Finance and Health Task Force (JFHTF). They welcomed the conclusion of the First Call for Proposals of the Pandemic Fund. The Union Finance Minister, Smt Nirmala Sitharaman stated, “One of the successes of India’s G20 Presidency has been the enhanced collaboration between Finance and Health and the substantial achievements made under this collaboration will be continued in the future.”

On the sidelines of the G20 Health Ministers’ Meeting, WHO’s first Global Summit on Traditional Medicine was also held. Co-hosted by the Ministry of Ayush, the Summit focused on exploring the role of traditional complimentary and integrative medicine in addressing pressing health challenges and driving progress in global health and sustainable development. The keynote address was delivered by Dr. Tedros Andhenom Ghebreyesus, Director General, World Health Organization. The Summit saw participation from more than 400 countries.

Under the G20 Health Track, 17 Co-branded events have been held from subjects ranging from adolescent health, Tuberculosis, Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), Medical Value Travel (MVT) etc. One of the significant outcomes of the co-branded events is the Gandhinagar Declaration on Tuberculosis. The Declaration is cognizant that despite progress, the South-East Asia Region has missed the 2020 milestones of the End TB Strategy and the 2022 coverage targets as per the political commitment made during the UN High-Level Meeting on TB (UNHLM-TB) in New York on 26 September 2018. It expressed confidence that the WHO South East Asia Region will be able to end TB by 2030 with unrelenting, concerted and synergistic actions in the right direction by all Member States with the support of partners, stakeholders and communities.

The ‘Advantage Healthcare India’ portal, also launched at a Co-branded event aims to facilitate both patient, and healthcare personnel mobility to make access to quality healthcare possible across the globe. The 75/25 initiative aimed at screening and putting 75 million people with hypertension and diabetes on Standard Care by 2025, is the largest expansion of NCDs in primary health care programme in the world with a community based approach starting at the primary healthcare level was also a result of a co-branded event under India’s G20 Health Track.

The Covid-19 pandemic only emphasized what the world has always known, but sometimes tends to forget, that good health is the foundation of human life. India’s G20 Presidency has focused on building a stronger foundation, not just for itself, but for the world at large, in line with its G20 Presidency theme of One Earth, One Family, One Future. In his virtual address to the Health Minister’s Meeting, Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi concluded his address with an ancient Sanskrit proverb, "आरोग्यं परमं भाग्यं स्वास्थ्यं सर्वार्थसाधनम्"- Health is the ultimate wealth, and with good health every task can be accomplished, and the Indian Presidency’s Health Track has been focused on helping the world achieve this ultimate wealth.