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On Independence Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to make a number of health-related announcements, with the "Heal in India" and "Heal by India" projects and a plan to abolish sickle cell disease by 2047 serving as the standouts, according to official sources.

They suggested that Modi's speech from the Red Fort on August 15 might also mention the expansion of the National Health Mission under a new name, "PM Samagra Swasthya Mission," and the inclusion of the Quadrivalent Human Papillomavirus vaccine (qHPV) against cervical cancer in the National Immunization Programme.

The medical infrastructure at 37 institutions in 12 states will be improved as part of the "Heal in India" campaign, which aims to establish the nation as a major destination for wellness and medical travel, according to the sources. Highlights of the plan include streamlined visa requirements for international patients and their partners, interpreters and special desks at 10 designated airports, a bilingual portal, and more.

According to official sources who spoke to PTI, the government has selected 44 nations, mostly in Africa, Latin America, the SAARC, and the Gulf, from which a considerable number of people travel to India for medical treatment. They said that the price and standard of care in these countries were also taken into consideration.

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The Health Ministry is creating an online database of healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, and pharmacists, as part of the "Heal by India" initiative, which aims to position the country as a global source of trained and competent labour in the health sector. The database will also include a section where professionals can specify the country in which they are most interested in providing their services.

An official had previously told PTI that using the portal, external parties like patients and recruiters from India or overseas will be able to search for a needed professional depending on the specialisation or system of medicine, languages spoken, and the nation they desire to work in.

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According to an official source, 5% of the money allotted for each state would be set aside for tertiary care in the prime minister's anticipated announcement about expanding the National Health Mission to strengthen tertiary care capacities at district-level hospitals. The National Health Mission is anticipated to be renamed PM Samagra Swasthya Mission in addition to the expansion, the source told PTI.

The revamped mission would offer a seamless platform for the convergence of Ayushman Bharat's four pillars: PM Jan Arogya Yojana, PM Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission, and PM Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission.

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Elaborating on the strategic roadmap drawn up by the Union Health Ministry in collaboration with the Tribal Affairs Ministry to eliminate sickle cell disease by 2047 when India will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of Independence, an official said a roadmap has been prepared to screen around 7 crore people under the age of 40 years in 200 districts of 17 states in three years to eliminate the disease in the next 25 years.

As for the Quadrivalent Human Papillomavirus vaccine (qHPV), it has been indigenously developed by Serum Institute of India. At present, India is fully dependent on foreign manufacturers for the vaccine.

The health ministry is planning to roll out qHPV vaccine for girls aged 9-14 years under the National Immunization Programme. The rollout may take up to six months, a source told PTI.

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Cervical cancer in India ranks as the second most frequent cancer among women between 15 and 44 years of age. Globally, 6,04,000 women are affected by cervical cancer and 3,42,000 women die.

Every year in India, 1,22,844 women are affected with cervical cancer of which 67,477 die. Cervical cancer can be prevented by vaccinating girls in the age group of 9-14 years with HPV shots, sources said.

The Drugs Controller General of India on July 12 granted market authorisation to SII to manufacture qHPV. The government’s advisory panel NTAGI recently approved qHPV after reviewing clinical trial data of the vaccine.

(With PTI inputs)

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