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Years of neglect leaves national health gasping for relief: PMA

Years of neglect leaves national health gasping for relief: PMA

KARACHI: Describing the health status of the country as depressing, the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) on Saturday said that health indicators had gone from bad to worse in Pakistan and that there was an immediate need for intervention.

“The governments at the federal and provincial levels must admit persistent criminal negligence on their part. Had there been any proper investment in preventive healthcare and education, the situation would have been far better today irrespective of the scale of any disaster that might hit us,” PMA-Centre Secretary General Dr Abdul Ghafoor Shoro told a press conference.

The press conference, held at the PMA House, was organised to share highlights of the association’s annual report Health of the Nation.

Citing the WHO recommendations, he said the health budget of any country should be at least six per cent of the GDP. In our case, however, the health budget had remained 1.2pc of the GDP out of which 80pc was consumed by salaries and administrative expenditures.

“A major chunk of the [remaining] 20pc budget allocated for the masses is taken away by corruption, leaving a negligible amount for poor patients,” he said.

Releases annual report Health of the Nation; suggests formulation of people-friendly policy, overhaul of medical education

The poor performance of successive governments, Dr Shoro pointed out, was very much reflected by our persistent failure to eradicate diseases, such as polio and tuberculosis, and bring down the worryingly high maternal and infant mortality rates.

“Polio has been eradicated from across the world including low-income countries except Afghanistan and Pakistan. We have been at war with polio for decades without success. Iran has totally eradicated polio with just three rounds of countrywide vaccination. We believe that aside from the religious factor, what has been the reason for our failure is lack of government’s will and awareness,” he said.

According to the PMA report, an estimated 400,000 people died of diabetes in Pakistan in 2021. One in four adults (26.7pc) in Pakistan are living with diabetes — the highest national prevalence in the world.

“The prevalence of diabetes in Pakistan has increased significantly since IDF (International Diabetes Association) estimates published in 2019, according to which 19.4m adults were suffering from diabetes type-II while according to IDF Diabetes Atlas 2021 this number has reached 33m. This means that Pakistan now has the third highest number of people living with diabetes in the world, after China [141m] and India [74m],” it says.

Dengue, malaria claim over 80 lives in Sindh in 2021

Citing last year’s official data, PMA representatives said dengue and malaria together killed over 80 people in Sindh, out of whom 62 died in Karachi alone.

These lives, they said, could have been saved, if the patients were able to get timely quality treatment.

“Unfortunately, mosquito-borne illnesses have become a major threat to public health in Sindh today mainly due to the provincial government’s continued failure to take timely measures every year to eliminate their breeding grounds. This negligence worsened the situation, particularly in the flood-hit areas,” said PMA joint secretary Dr Vasdev.

The speakers also shared the association’s concern over infectious diseases spreading due to unhygienic conditions, non-availability of clean drinking water, inadequate sanitation, lack of sewerage facilities and lack of awareness among the masses about their own personal hygiene.

The disease burden was on the rise due to lack of a well-planned action, corruption and misplaced priorities. Quackery was rampant in society and healthcare commissions were nothing but ineffective, toothless bodies, they said.

No youth programme

Citing the national data according to which 55pc of Pakistani population is comprised of people less than 30 years of age, the speakers said it’s surprising that there was no career planning for this section of society.

“We don’t have enough educational institutions to give them quality education or vocational training. Hence this big population is not involved in any productive activity,” said Dr Vasdev.

The event concluded with the presentation of a series of recommendations including a complete overhaul of medical education and training of doctors according to the recent trends in the world and formulation of a people-friendly national health policy in consultation with stakeholders.

Published in Dawn, January 22th, 2023

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