India’s one million all-women ASHA workers were awarded and honoured by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for their “outstanding” contribution to advancing global health, demonstrated leadership and commitment to regional health issues.
They were honoured for their crucial role in linking the community with the health system and ensuring those living in rural poverty can access primary health care services, throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed happiness that the entire team of ASHA workers has been conferred the WHO Director-General’s Global Health Leaders’ Award. In a tweet, PM Modi congratulated all the ASHA workers for this. The Prime Minister said that they are at the forefront of ensuring a healthy India and their dedication and determination is admirable.
Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya also extended his warmest greetings to all the ASHA workers. “Congratulations to all the ASHA workers on being conferred the award. ASHA workers are at the forefront of healthcare delivery and played a key role in the country’s response to the prevention and management of the Covid-19,” he said.
The Accredited Social Health Activists (or ASHA workers as they are popularly known as in India) were honoured by the World Health Organization (WHO) for their crucial role in providing primary health care services in rural areas.
ASHA workers were among the six conferred with WHO’s Director-General’s Global Health Leaders’ Award on May 22. “ASHA workers are more than 1 million female volunteers in India, honoured for their crucial role in linking the community with the health system,” WHO announced in a tweet.
WHO said that ASHAs worked to provide maternal care and immunisation for children against vaccine-preventable diseases; community healthcare; treatment for hypertension and tuberculosis; and core areas of health promotion for nutrition, sanitation, and healthy living.
The ceremony for the awards, which were established in 2019, was part of the live-streamed high-level opening session of the 75th World Health Assembly. The WHO DirectorGeneral Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced six Global Health Leaders Awards. Dr Tedros himself decides on the awardees for the World Health Organisation Director-General’s Global Health Leaders Awards.
“At a time when the world is facing an unprecedented convergence of inequity, conflict, food insecurity, the climate crisis and a pandemic, this award recognises those who have made an outstanding contribution to protecting and promoting health around the world,” the DirectorGeneral said in a statement.
WHO also honoured eight volunteer polio workers in Afghanistan, including four women, who were shot and killed by armed men in Takhar and Kunduz provinces on February 24, 2022. “These awardees embody lifelong dedication, relentless advocacy, a commitment to equity, and selfless service of humanity,” an official of the world health body added.
One of the key components of India’s National Rural Health Mission is to provide every village in the country with a trained female community health activist ASHA or Accredited Social Health Activist. Selected from the village itself and accountable to it, the ASHA is trained to work as an interface between the community and the public health system.
ASHA is chosen through a rigorous process of selection involving various community groups, self-help groups, Anganwadi Institutions, the Block Nodal officer, District Nodal officer, the village Health Committee and the Gram Sabha. Capacity-building of ASHA is seen as a continuous process.
ASHA has to undergo series of training episodes to acquire the necessary knowledge, skills and confidence for performing her spelled out roles. The activist receives performance-based incentives for promoting universal immunisation, referral and escort services for reproductive and child health and other healthcare programmes, and construction of household toilets.