Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Niti Aayog report finds ‘huge gap’ in cancer screening at Ayushman centres


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Ayushman Bharat Scheme

Mains level: Reason behind the 'huge gap' in cancer screening at Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centres (HWCs)

Why in the news? 

Ayushman Bharat insurance scheme reached 5.47 crore users, but cancer screening at Health and Wellness Centers (HWCs) faces significant gaps, reports NITI Aayog.

Objective of Ayushman Bharat Scheme:

  • Besides providing a Rs 5-lakh insurance cover, the scheme aimed to upgrade primary health centers to HWCs, offering annual screening for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) including oral, breast, and cervical cancers for individuals aged 30 years or older.

Coverage of Ayushman Bharat Scheme: 

  • Over 5.47 crore users have utilized the Ayushman Bharat insurance scheme, making it the world’s largest medical insurance scheme.

The ‘huge gap’ in cancer screening at Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centres (HWCs):

  • NITI Aayog Report Findings: A report from NITI Aayog, based on visits to HWCs in 13 states, highlights a significant gap in cancer screening services.
  • Limited NCD Screening: Although NCD screening is underway in most HWCs, yearly screening is largely absent, with less than 10% of facilities completing a single round of NCD screening.

Reason behind the ‘huge gap’ in cancer screening at Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centres (HWCs):

  • Methods of Screening: Official protocol mandates distinct screening methods for oral, cervical, and breast cancers. However, implementation of these methods faces challenges.
  • Lack of Awareness and Capacities: The gap in cancer screening is attributed to low awareness levels and lack of capacities among healthcare providers.
  •  Implementation fell short: Auxiliary Nurse and Midwife (ANMs), medical officers, and staff nurses were supposed to be trained in cancer screening methods, but implementation fell short.
  • Suboptimal Screening Activities: Screening for breast cancer relies on beneficiary education for self-examination, while cervical cancer screening remains to be operationalized. Oral cancer screening is performed on a case-by-case basis.
  • Infrastructure and Basic Devices: HWCs generally adhere to infrastructure standards, with basic devices and medicines available free-of-cost. However, the focus remains on improving cancer screening services to align with the government’s prevention and early detection efforts.

Way forward: 

  • Awareness Campaigns: Launch comprehensive awareness campaigns to educate the public about the importance of cancer screening and early detection. This can involve community outreach programs, workshops, and informational sessions.
  • Utilize Technology: Integrate technology solutions such as telemedicine and mobile applications to facilitate easier access to screening services, especially in remote areas. Digital platforms can also aid in data management and monitoring of screening activities.
  • Performance Monitoring: Implement robust monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to track the implementation of cancer screening programs at HWCs.

Mains PYQ: 

Appropriate local community level healthcare intervention is a prerequisite to achieve ‘Health for All’ in India. Explain.

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