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Press Release on the Visit of Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss, Minister of Health & Family Welfare to US

Washington, DC 
June 30, 2008

Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss, Minister of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India paid an official visit to the USA to explore the possibilities to developing cooperative relationships with key health care research and extension institutions to draw on their expertise to further key planned and on-going health sector initiatives in India. As part of this effort, Dr. Ramadoss met with Mr. Bill Gates and members of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, academic leaders at the UCLA and Stanford Medical Schools and important members of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPIO). 

In his meeting with the Health Minister, Mr. Gates appreciated the efforts made by the Minister for improving health services in India. He congratulated the Minister for effective implementation of the National Rural Health Mission in India. In response to a query from Mr. Gates regarding the polio situation in the States of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, the Minister elaborated the steps taken by the Government for eradication of Polio from the country. Mr. Gates responded positively to a request from the Health Minister to support the research programme seeking to expeditiously develop vaccines for malaria and TB. Subsequently, Dr. Ramadoss had discussions with key officials at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation led by Dr. Tashi Yamada, Chief, Global Health Executive Team where the polio situation in UP and Bihar, the National Tobacco Control Programme, the new Drugs Regulatory Authority, the HIV/AIDS situation in India and several other issues were discussed in detail. The Health Minister made an appeal for popularising Yoga and other Indian systems of medicine for a healthy life throughout the globe. 

As part of its worldwide efforts to stem the spread of AIDS, the Foundation has announced that it would make a $23 million grant to India, which would be spent through National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) in India over the next three years. Earlier the Foundation had already announced a grant of $58 million for HIV/AIDS ‘Avahan’ Programme for a period of 5 years, which targets risk groups in six States. 

Dr. Ramadoss delivered the key note address at the annual conference of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPIO) at Las Vegas on 27th June 2008. The Health Minister highlighted the need for bridges to be built to enable AAPIO to contribute its members’ expertise effectively to the many Government of India national programmes, e.g. the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Diabetes, Cardiovasuclar Diseases and Stroke (NPDCS). He made a special mention of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), the largest-ever health programme implemented anywhere in the world. The NRHM seeks to dramatically change the health scenario in the rural areas. The Minister informed the gathering that a new Department of Health Research has been created in his Ministry to promote and coordinate basic, applied and clinical research including clinical trials and operational research in areas related to medical, health bio-medical and medical practice and education through the development of infrastructure, manpower and skills in cutting edge areas. In this context, the Minister noted that many members of AAPIO had expressed a desire to give back to their country of birth by sharing their knowledge and hoped that initiatives launched by the new Department would provide a mechanism for this. 

The Health Minister also solicited the assistance of AAPIO in promoting Trauma Care Centres on the National Highways to take care of the trauma cases including poison, snake bites etc. He disclosed that a highly successful pilot programme had already been implemented in the State of Andhra Pradesh with the assistance of Satyam Computers for emergency relief under which across the state a single phone number would provide ambulance and critical care facilities within a threshold time limit. This programme is now being extended to all states in the country in parallel with the ‘911’ service in the US.

Earlier, Dr.Anbumani Ramadoss met Prof. Jeffrey D.Sachs, Director, The Earth Institute, Columbia University, New York and Special Advisor to UN Secretary General in New York, who is also the the head of the International Advisory Panel (IAP) on the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and reviewed the implementation of the mission in India. He visited UCLA Medical School, Los Angeles and Stanford Medical School to further collaborative arrangements with the new Department of Health Research to develop new curriculum for medical training institutions in India and specific research programmes such vaccine development.