New Delhi: Government on Wednesday announced expanding the reach of National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) to all villages and towns and said it was formulating a new scheme for distribution of free medicines through public hospitals and health centres.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday announced that the NRHM will be converted into a National Health Mission to expand the scope of health services in the towns also.
"After the success of the NRHM, we now want to expand the scope of health services in our towns also. The National Rural Health Mission will be converted into a National Health Mission which would cover all villages and towns in the country," Singh said in his Independence Day address.
Singh also said, "We are formulating a scheme for distribution of free medicines through government hospitals and health centres."
The NRHM, a flagship scheme of the Congress-led UPA government, was launched in 2005 to provide better health services to people living in remote and rural areas of India.
"Today this Mission is being implemented with the help of 10 lakh health personnel, including 8.5 lakh Asha workers," Singh said. The Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) are local women trained to act as health educators and facilitators in the community.
The extension of NRHM in urban areas was recently opposed by the Health Ministry in the Planning Commission`s draft health chapter for 12th Plan, saying the health needs of urban and rural people were different and there should be a separate national urban health mission for people living in urban areas.
The Prime Minister also highlighted the polio-free status of the country, saying no new case of polio had been reported in the country in the last one and a half years.
"Now India does not figure in the list of countries affected by this disease," he said in his speech.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) removed India from its list of polio endemic nations sometime ago after no single case of the disease was reported in the country for over a year.
In 2009, India had more polio cases than any other nation in the world.
Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan are the three countries where polio is still endemic and continue to be on the polio- endemic list of WHO.
The Prime Minister also described malnutrition among children as a "big challenge" to the country.
"We have taken steps in many dimensions to deal with this problem," he said, adding the integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) is being made more effective to benefit children and mothers.