KP govt admits health indicators are alarming

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012 3:30:36 by

PESHAWAR, Oct 15: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa special health secretary Dr Noorul Iman on Monday said the province had alarming health indicators, which could be improved by public-private partnerships.

He was speaking at the first of a series of seminars on reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health (RMNCH) and nutrition at a local hotel.

The seminars are organised by Aga Khan University’s women and child health division with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to build consensus on innovative, cost-effective and sustainable interventions and implementation strategies for improving maternal, newborn and child health conditions in the country.

The special health secretary told participants that in spite of a higher doctor-to-population ratio of 80 compared to India (70) and Sri Lanka (60), the province had yet to achieve health targets.

“Reorganisation of the health department is underway with special measures being taken to make systems more efficient.
“Capacity development for staff in statistical analysis is also being planned to ensure an informed decision-making process,” he said.

Dr Iman said insufficient public awareness and weak political support for adequate financial allocations for health were hampering efforts to meet millennium development goals on maternal and child mortality.

He said health experts would have to work together if healthcare services in the country were to be improved.

Dr Zulfiqar Bhutta, head of the AKU women and child health division, outlined the challenges for maternal, newborn and child health in the country.

Focusing specifically on Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, he charted the opportunities for implementing key evidence-based solutions such as optimal birth spacing and integration of maternal, newborn and antennal care services for innovations and scaling up activities in the province.

“With concerted efforts and actual practice, over two-thirds of all unnecessary maternal, newborn and child deaths can be avoided,” he said.

Dr Bhutta said child health programmes in the country had been vertical or controlled and implemented from the top only and that they seemed to have lost efficacy at lower levels in tehsils and districts.

He said it was very important for policymakers to consider addressing the inequality gap between the rich and poor, especially around immunisation.

Speaking on reproductive health, Dr Shereen Zulfiqar of Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre said Pakistan was one of the first countries in the region to develop a national policy on reproductive health, but unfortunately, the relevant indicators had changed little since.

“Though Pakistan’s population has doubled between 1951 and 1998, no serious measures have been taken by any government to contain it,” she said.

Dr Nabeela Ali of USAID Technical Assistance Unit for Health highlighted the urgent need to address governance and budgetary issues hampering progress.

She said health expenditure as percentage of GDP had dropped to 0.27 per cent in 2011-2012, and the target for placement of trained community midwives had barely reached the halfway mark years after the process began.

“What will help are increased allocations to health and their proper utilisation; an understanding of issues at hand; and province-specific strategies that will help improve the health care delivery system in Pakistan,” she said.

Professor Nadeem Khawar of Khyber Medical University said health indicators in the province were still discouraging and needed immediate attention.

Representatives of political parties, civil society organisations and religious parties also attended the workshop.

Peshawar News Sources

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