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‘Health Is A Human Right’: 4 Experts Share How We Can Make #HealthForAll A Reality

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UHC logoEditor’s Note: This post is a part of #HealthForAll, a campaign by WHO and Youth Ki Awaaz to advocate access to healthcare for everyone, everywhere. If you have ideas on how India ensure access to quality and affordable healthcare for all by 2030, share your opinion.

In 2015, countries around the world, including India, adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with the aim to achieve them by 2030.

Goal 3 of these 17 #GlobalGoals is to ensure good health and well-being of people of all ages across the globe, and one of the targets of this health goal is to “achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all.”

On July 13, 2018, Youth Ki Awaaz, along with WHO India, hosted a Twitter chat on the theme of Universal Health Coverage to understand how #HealthForAll can be turned into a reality for millions of Indians.

The four experts participating in the Twitter chat were: Dr. Chandrakant Lahariya (@DrLahariya), National Professional Officer – UHC, at WHO India; Alok Kumar (@IasAlok), Adviser (Health and Nutrition) at NITIAayog; Sanchita Sharma (@sanchx), Health and Science Editor at Hindustan Times; and Priyanka Dutt (@priydee), Country Director, BBC Media Action India.

The Twitter chat invited participation from several enthusiastic Twitterati. Organisations including Population Foundation Of India and Oxfam India lent their perspectives to the chat, adding nuance and value to the conversation.

In case you missed the Twitter chat, here are some highlights:

What is the Universal Health Coverage?

@sanchx: Ensuring equitable access for all Indians to affordable, accountable, appropriate and quality health services. Services must be provided to all, regardless of income, social status, gender, caste or religion.

@DrLahariya: UHC means that “all individuals & communities receive health services they need without suffering financial hardship. ( . UHC includes the full spectrum of essential, quality health services, from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliative care.

YKA: What do you think should be the ideal contribution of a country’s GDP towards public health to ensure that #HealthForAll can be a reality?

How digital technology can play a key role in contributing to #UniversalHealthCoverage in a country with a 1.3 billion population

@priydee: For large & diverse populations, #UniversalHealthCoverage demands standardisation, localisation, and personalisation, which need to be designed for and delivered at scale. Digital technologies help us achieve all those in the most cost-effective manner.

Population Foundation Of India chipped in with: There are emerging apps which have a number of specialists on board- acting like a helpline of sorts. Patients can call up and outline their issue which would then redirect them to concerned consultants.

Twitter user @PhysicianRural had some more app suggestions:

How diverse communities can be engaged for stronger health outcomes in India

@priydee: Partnering with community organisations in the planning & design of #UniversalHealthCare solutions is critical to achieving people-centred, integrated health services that deliver quality, access, equity & accountability. Real world communities increasingly overlap with digital communities, providing inexpensive, efficient, standardized and yet personalized ways of engaging people in achieving. Digital tools are also very effective in empowering and equipping communities with knowledge of their rights and entitlements so that they can collectively demand access to quality, cost-effective and equitable health services.

@OxfamIndia chipped in with a superb input:

YKA: What are the 3 areas in healthcare where technology can play an important role to help us move towards #HealthForAll?

primary care (basic consultations, doctors’ appointment, finding the right specialists, etc.), health insurance, access to right medical information #HealthForAll

— Population Foundation of India (@PFI3) July 13, 2018

YKA: How do you see government initiatives like constructing toilets and the #SwachhBharat Tax addressing public health concerns in India?


  • Poor #sanitation causes repeated bouts of #diarrhoea and infectious diseases that lead to #malnutrition, which remains a major problem in India despite economic progress.
  • #Diarrhoea is the third-biggest cause of #prematuredeath across ages in India in 2016, after #heartdisease and lung diseases, according to data from the Global Burden of Disease.
  • Poor #sanitation is the leading cause of #diarrhoea, #malnutrition, cholera, hepatitis A and E, worm infestations, #typhoid and enteric fevers.
  • Unsafe drinking water, excreta-contaminated food, open defecation, unusable toilets, untreated sewerage and not handwashing cause #infectiousdiseases like #diarrhoea.

Twitter user @sumiraghav had an extremely valid and crucial point to make:

@DrLahariya: India has drafted national policy on rare diseases. The provision under this policy and then in spirit implementation should hopefully change the availability of services for a rare and congenital disease. It would accelerate #UHC.

Lessons India can adopt from other countries in the area of using technology to create awareness on preventive healthcare

@priydee: Lots to learn. Linking HRIS to HMIS. Manage chronic conditions by linking health tech with comms for patient self-management; healthcare provider alerts to changes in patients’ condition & treatment adherence, especially for chronic conditions. Also consider AI for on-demand interaction with doctor, digital supply chains, process automation to free up services providers to provide care rather than documenting it.

@PFI3: Reliable research databases like PubMed provide accurate and reliable medical information, just a click away. In developed countries, especially in the USA, the health insurance companies, despite their shortcomings, play a big role in ensuring that patients have access to the right information starting from diagnosis to treatment.

YKA: How do you rate India’s infrastructure progress when it comes to facilitating the delivery of quality healthcare services?

@IasAlok: India’s health outcomes have moved in the right direction; MMR has declined by over 3/4th over 1990 levels to 130, U5MR has declined nearly by 2/3rd to 43 over the same period. Driven largely with the strengthening of Public health infra under NHM, particularly at SCs, PHC, CHC & DHs. Institutional deliveries have doubled over the last decade; increased immunization and antenatal checkups; 24×7 First Referral Units, SNCUs & a focus on Quality of Care.

YKA: What are the key components of Ayushman Bharat Programme?

@IasAlok: #AyushmanBharat has twin missions: Health & Wellness Centres & the health insurance component: 1st to operationalize 1.5 lac H&WCs offering a comprehensive preventive & primary care; with access to free drugs & diagnostics and referral to higher levels of care.

Twitter user @dpkryan had a valid question to ask:

@OxfamIndia replied:

YKA: Do you feel that the proposed NHPM can widen its scope beyond hospitalisation to include the cost of buying important life-saving drugs from pharmacies for poor patients?

YKA: How is @NITIAayog contributing to ensure that Goal 3 of the #SDGs become a reality for millions of Indians?

YKA: How has WHO been working with the government to improve health services delivery and advance #UHC in India?


YKA: How will the Health & Wellness Centres under the ABP initiative help India in improving the quality of primary healthcare?

@DrLahariya: Well, HWCs design aims to strengthen PHC by (a) reducing time to access health facilities, (b) expanding services, (c) augmenting HR, (d) making medicine n diagnostics available &, (e) functional referral linkage.

The success of HWC initiative lies in getting both design n implementation right, from the very beginning. Rapid scale-up, capital investment, attention on poor performing states, urban PHC, program monitoring would help.

YKA: In October, global leaders are meeting at the primary healthcare conference to address key health challenges. Why is primary healthcare important for achieving #HealthForAll?

@DrLahariya: PHC can address up to 80-90% of #health needs of any population. That makes it efficient and affordable approach to deliver health services. PHC is community oriented, aims to provide a broad range of services closer to where people are.

Twitter user @shreetishakya had an important question:

@DrLahariya replied:

What role can mainstream media play to advance #UHC

@sanchx: Media must identify gaps in #publichealth delivery for quick course correction and celebrate successes that can be scaled up to benefit more people. Correct and unbiased reporting can help identify gaps in delivery and best practices to improve #publichealth services and reach the under-served. Mass media and communication, including social media, should be used to share correct information about the services available and people’s rights as citizens.

Twitter user @dr_pritamroy asked @DrLahariya: What will be your message to State Health Programme Officers to make UHC reality?

Youth Ki Awaaz and WHO have joined hands to advocate for the right for everyone to have access to basic health care. Be a part of this movement online using hashtag #HealthforAll and follow the conversation here.

Organised as a part of #HealthForAll, a campaign by WHO India and Youth Ki Awaaz to advocate access to healthcare for everyone, everywhere, the Twitter chat reached close to 3 million people on Twitter.

How do you think we can make quality healthcare affordable and accessible for all? Tweet your responses @YouthKiAwaaz with #HealthForAll!

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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