Health & Wellness Centers to Strengthen Primary Health Care in India: Concept, Progress and Ways Forward

Indian J Pediatr. 2020 Nov;87(11):916-929. doi: 10.1007/s12098-020-03359-z. Epub 2020 Jul 8.


In February 2018, the Indian Government announced Ayushman Bharat Program (ABP) with two components of (a) Health and Wellness Centres (HWCs), to deliver comprehensive primary health care (PHC) services to the entire population and (b) Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) for improving access to hospitalization services at secondary and tertiary level health facilities for bottom 40% of total population. The HWC component of ABP aims to upgrade and make 150,000 existing Government Primary health care facilities functional by December 2022. The first HWC was launched on 14 April 2018 and by 31 March 2020, a total 38,595 AB-HWCs were operational across India. This article documents and analyses the key design aspects of HWCs, against core components of PHC & the health system functions. The article reviews the progress and analyses the potential of HWCs to strengthen PHC services and therefore, advance Universal Health Coverage in India. Challenges emerged from COVID-19 pandemic & learnings thus far has also been analyzed to guide the scale up of HWCs in India. It has been argued that effectiveness and success of HWCs will be dependent upon a rapid transition from policy to accelerated implementation stage; focus on both supply and demand side interventions, dedicated and increased funding by both union and state governments; appropriate use of information and communication technology; engagement of community and civil society and other stakeholders, focus on effective and functional referral linkages; attention on public health services & population health interventions; sustained political will & monitoring and evaluation for the mid-term corrections, amongst other. Experience from India may have lessons and learnings for other low and middle-income countries to strengthen primary healthcare in journey towards universal health coverage.

Keywords: Ayushman Bharat program; COVID-19; Coronavirus; Health & wellness centres; India; Primary health care; Universal health coverage.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Betacoronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Fitness Centers / organization & administration*
  • Government Programs
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Health Services Needs and Demand*
  • Humans
  • India / epidemiology
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology*
  • Primary Health Care / organization & administration*
  • SARS-CoV-2