Keynote Address at the State Health Ministers’ Roundtable Panel on Access to Medical Products

9 October 2018, New Delhi, India

Excellencies, distinguished participants,

I am pleased to join you and the Hon’ble state minister of health at this health ministers’ roundtable.

Having served as the minister of health for the Government of Punjab I am familiar with the many issues you face. Today I want to share with you some of the specific areas where WHO is working with state governments and the Government of India to help address those issues.

As you appreciate, with the evolving global market for pharmaceuticals and medical products, there is a need for strong regulatory systems, quality manufacturing, efficient supply chains, effective post-market surveillance and greater affordability of health products.

WHO’s 13th General Programme of Work, which will be implemented between 2019 and 2023, seeks to empower Member States to achieve these outcomes, especially in low- and middle-income countries.

To date, WHO has played a pivotal role in supporting countries strengthen their regulatory systems and promote equitable access to quality, safe, efficacious, and affordable medical products. This is reflected in a number of resolutions at the regional and global level.

In India specifically, among other areas of work, WHO has provided technical, operational and financial assistance towards strengthening the Indian National Regulatory Authority, as well as the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization. WHO is also providing technical assistance and organizing capacity building programs for state drug regulators.

WHO conducts a number of periodic activities at the state level. For example, WHO has been closely engaged in the Annual Drug Regulators Conclave for Central and State Regulatory Authorities in India, with the second meeting taking place back in August, in Himachal Pradesh.

We aim to scale up support in several areas, including medicines and medical devices, as well as in-vitro diagnostics at both central and state levels. As part of this, between 13 and 15 December, WHO is supporting India host the 4th WHO Global Forum on Medical Devices at Vishakhapatnam.

Together we are taking the steps needed to secure good health by strengthening the systems it relies on.

Nevertheless, one of the persistent challenges faced is having accurate, up-to-date and real-time data to make appropriate policy interventions. To overcome this challenge, WHO and the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare have developed a web-based, near real-time electronic disease surveillance system – the Integrated Health Information Platform.

The platform is based on the country’s Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme and takes data from various registries to provide health surveillance across India. Healthcare providers, peripheral health workers and laboratory technicians are able to enter patient-specific data for more than 33 syndromes or infectious diseases via mobile phone, tablet or desktop. I encourage all state governments to actively promote the use of this platform.


The Sustainable Development Goals build on the unfinished business of the Millennium Development Goal era, adding a series of new targets, including for noncommunicable diseases, universal health coverage and road traffic accidents. Good health will be the outcome of some targets and goals and will be the catalyst for others.

WHO has identified six ways of working, both within and beyond the health sector, to make progress towards the SDGs.

The first is to promote intersectoral action by multiple stakeholders. This is especially important given the many variables that affect health outcomes, and the fact that responsibility for advancing health extends well beyond the health sector.

The second is recognizing that health systems strengthening is key to achieving universal health coverage. UHC is the linchpin of the health-related SDGs. It is the one target that, if achieved, will help deliver all others by providing high-quality, person-centered services at the point of delivery.

The third is respect for equity and human rights. As you know, the SDGs emphasize the inclusion of all individuals, including through the empowerment of women. This focus is reflected in the imperative of ‘leaving no one behind’.

The fourth is sustainable financing. While the SDGs offer the opportunity to attract new sources of funding, they also stress the importance of securing adequate domestic financing, with the alignment of financial flows key to avoiding the duplication of health system functions.

The fifth relates to scientific research and innovation. This means creating new technologies, as well as finding new ways to implement high-impact policies, including legal and financial instruments. It also means applying existing technologies from outside the health sector to deliver primary care, including through digitalization.

Lastly, monitoring and evaluating progress towards SDG 3 and other health-related targets will be key. Health both benefits from, and contributes to, all other Goals, meaning progress must be measured across the whole SDG framework.

Excellencies, distinguished participants,

I look forward to continued and enhanced collaboration with each one of you. I am certain that with our joint efforts good health for all will soon be a reality.

Thank you very much.