From Planning Commission To Niti Aayog: Life comes a full circle for Dr Vinod Paul

From a member of the High Level Expert Group on Universal Health Coverage formed by the erstwhile Planning Commission to becoming the first medical expert member of its successor, the Niti Aayog, life has come a full circle for Dr Vinod Paul. A neonatologist, Paul headed AIIMS’s paediatrics department for many years. He has been the go-to person for academic, research committees, for jobs that require not just medical acumen but an understanding also of broader fields of public health and health policy.

Paul was one of the three doctors shortlisted for the post of AIIMS director earlier this year. He leads the WHO Collaborating Centre on Newborn Health for South East Asia Region and the Centre for Advanced Research in Newborn Health (Indian Council of Medical Research).

Paul is a visiting professor at the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI). He holds positions in multiple international fora on child health, has been a co-chair of the Board of the Global Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health and a member of the UN Millennium Project Task Force on Child Health and Maternal Health. He is also a member of the Steering Committee of global Every Newborn Action Plan.

Unlike his former colleague and PHFI President Dr K S Reddy, Paul has managed to stay on the right side of the government. He is working closely with the government in the field of child health as chair of the Technical Advisory Group and co-chair of the Newborn Health Action group of the health ministry. Paul has developed India’s maternal and child health strategy. He is also a member of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, the highest decision making body in the country for decisions on the basket of vaccines for the universal immunisation programme. That engagement is now set to become more broad-based.

Paul’s appointment is a likely signal that the government has preferred to go back to the basics when it comes to health. The government’s key initiative is Mission Indradhanush that seeks to widen and deepen vaccination coverage. As the Aayog plays a key role in deciding contours of government policy, Paul’s appointment will bring some much-needed heft to health planning and possibly push the government to commit more resources for the purpose.

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