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Himalayan Holy Sites Pilgrims to Receive Health Protection via Digital Ecosystem

Written by : Jayati Dubey

May 28, 2024

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The initiative, termed the pilgrim monitoring system, aims to create an Ayushman Bharat Health Account (ABHA) ID for each pilgrim.

The Union government, along with the Government of Uttarakhand, is developing a technology ecosystem linked to the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM) to safeguard pilgrims from high-altitude ailments and extreme cold.

Pilgrims visiting the sacred Himalayan sites of Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath, collectively known as the Char Dham, will soon benefit from the enhanced health protection measures.

The initiative, termed the pilgrim monitoring system, aims to create an Ayushman Bharat Health Account (ABHA) ID for each pilgrim.

This digital health ID will make the pilgrims' health records accessible to doctors in case of emergencies, facilitating timely and accurate medical intervention.

The Char Dham pilgrimage, one of India's largest religious journeys, commenced on May 10, 2024.

Despite its spiritual significance, the pilgrimage is fraught with health risks due to high altitudes and extreme weather conditions.

This year, a surge in the number of pilgrims has been observed, and tragically, 29 pilgrims have died so far.

Common health issues among pilgrims include low blood pressure, heart attacks, altitude sickness, and lack of oxygen.

Digital Health Integration

To mitigate these risks, the Uttarakhand government has mandated registration for the Char Dham Yatra, during which each pilgrim will receive an ABHA ID.

The system is designed to streamline the pilgrimage experience by enabling doctors to address any health issues proactively.

"We will also be providing wearable IoT devices and GPS trackers to our pilgrims to identify morbidities, if any, at the earliest," an official from the Uttarakhand government stated.

The LEHS WISH (Wadhwani Initiative for Sustainable Healthcare) foundation, an NGO dedicated to improving primary healthcare through innovation, is developing a centralized ABDM-enabled platform to generate accurate and timely digital health records.

Further, the National Health Authority (NHA) has recommended that the Uttarakhand government consider making ABHA ID mandatory for all pilgrims.

"ABHA will help in maintaining and accessing pilgrims' longitudinal health records digitally during their journey," stated a communication from the NHA to the Uttarakhand government.

E-Swasthya Dham Program

The E-Swasthya Dham program is already live and features ABHA creation and verification functionalities. The integration of health records is ongoing.

The ABHA ID allows citizens to authenticate, access, and manage their health records digitally.

It also facilitates hospital and doctor appointments, helping patients avoid long queues at healthcare facilities.

According to state government figures, more than 967,000 pilgrims have participated in the Char Dham pilgrimage so far this year.

Implementing the ABHA ID system is expected to enhance these pilgrims' safety and health management, providing a robust framework for managing health emergencies in remote and challenging terrains.

The collaborative efforts between the Centre, the Uttarakhand government, and various health organizations aim to provide a safer pilgrimage experience.

By leveraging digital health technology, the initiative seeks to prevent treatment delays and improve health outcomes for the thousands of pilgrims undertaking the arduous Char Dham Yatra.


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