HWCs mark a major commitment by the Centre to strengthening primary healthcare infrastructure in the country, coming as part of its flagship health insurance initiative, the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) or Ayushman Bharat. In the previous year, 20,942 HWCs have become operational under the scheme and the target is to convert 150,000 existing sub-health centres and primary health centres into HWCs by 2022 according to a Union Health Ministry official.
In July, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan told Rajya Sabha MPs that 19,576 HWCs had been established and that the Government intended for 40,000 HWCs to become operational by the end of the 2019-20 fiscal year. “The AB-HWCs are envisioned to provide an expanded range of services,” he said at the time, “[including] care for non-communicable diseases as well as prevention, and health promotion and wellness activities like Yoga apart from services already being provided for maternal and child health, including immunisation and communicable diseases.”
In the example of noncommunicable diseases, many have availed screening for a range of conditions. 1.63 crore have been screened for hypertension; 1.43 crore for diabetes; 79 lakh for oral cancer; 54 lakh for breast cancer; and 37.5 lakh for cervical cancer. These conditions have a significant footprint in India. 72.9 million Indians are diabetic as of 2018 and the country is projected to be home to almost 100 million diabetics by 2030. Hypertension affects 224 million Indians. Breast cancer is expected to kill 76,000 Indians by 2020. India is home to 57.5 percent of the world’s head and neck cancer patients including oral cancer, which accounts for 80,000 cases each year. And cervical cancer kills almost 200 Indian women each day.
Preventative care and screening through HWCs can help to partially alleviate these crises and to provide treatment and guidance to those who need it. The plethora of benefits available at these facilities could inch India closer to healthcare for all.