ISLAMABAD: The Federal Minister for National Health Services Saira Afzal Tarar has said that healthcare remains government’s top most priority agenda in the social sector and the National Health Vision 2016-25 is a testament to that.
While addressing a special event in connection with World Health Day in Islamabad on Friday, the minister said that the health vision was developed by the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination (MNHSRC) to provide a common strategic vision to guide health sector in achieving universal health coverage through efficient, effective, equitable, accessible and affordable health services to its entire populace.
The minister said that our government launched Prime Minister’s National Health Programme in 2015 with the objective to provide universal health coverage through a cashless health insurance scheme for the poor to enable them to access needed health-care services. By the Grace of Almighty, Prime Minister’s National Health Programme continues to provide services for the beneficiaries across the Country, she said.
Saira Afzal Tarar said that three million poor families living in 41 focused districts across Pakistan are currently accessing indoor health care services from 135 empaneled hospitals. She said that the program is being expanded to eventually cover all districts of the Country.
The health minister said that tuberculosis (TB) is undoubtedly one of Pakistan’s biggest health crises as it kills almost 44000 Pakistanis every year and causes considerable economic losses.
Saira said that Pakistan has committed to end TB epidemic by 2030 and the MNHSRC has developed an action plan for next three years with a total cost of $500 million of which only half of the funding has been committed as yet.
It is suggested to declare TB as a “Priority” disease and should be discussed at the highest forum of CCI in order to sensitize the governments of its critical nature and resource mobilization.
The minister said that malnutrition with a prevalence of 45 percent in our children is a national problem which is being carried on to next generations with all its negative impact. The cumulative effect of lost manpower hours, healthcare expenses and lower productivity due to malnutrition in monetary terms in Pakistan is $7.6 billion or around three percent of gross domestic product (GDP) every year. Considering the crisis situation in Nutrition, the matter may be brought on the agenda of Council of Common Interests (CCI) to achieve a multi sectoral coordinated response.
Furthermore, she said that Pakistan is now the sixth most populous Country in the World. Decline in population growth rate has been slow, the current population growth rate of 2.4 percent per annum is one of the highest in the World while contraceptive prevalence of only 35 percent is much lower than other Countries. Any increase in health budget actually is diluted by ever increasing number of individuals added in the pool of population annually.
Though, she added that, the ministry has been taking appropriate measures to address the issues; however in order to further prioritize this very critical area it is suggested to have a threadbare discussion in CCI to formulize robust policies and allocate resources.
Saira Afzal said that a major challenge in Pakistan is varying estimates of health indicators which exist in the Country. These are derived from the routine reporting while others pertain mainly to regular/episodic national and sub-national level surveys marked variances have been recorded across these different sources with some reflecting more than 75 percent coverage in one survey whereas another survey shows 20 percent coverage in the same region. These stark differences are commonly attributable to the varying methodologies of assessment and biases.
The health minister said that the Ministry National Health has started working with Bill Gates Foundation, World Health Organization (WHO) and International Health Matrix & Evaluation (A most trusted international institution for data and evaluations) to improve the data quality over last few years and have developed a comprehensive dashboard but would require continuous improvements in times to come. It is proposed that government should commit to have one “Pakistan National Health Survey” of international standard at 2-3 year interval covering consensus indicators all across Pakistan through its own resources. The finance ministry is requested to pledge the required resources in the upcoming budget (The survey will cost approximately Rs 500 million).
The minister said that the MNHSRC is of the view that resources for health in the federal and provincial budgetary allocations should be enhanced in subsequent budgets (Allocation reaching at least three percent of GDP in next five years as envisaged in Pakistan National Vision 2025 i.e. 0.5 percent of GDP annually) in order to have a meaningful impact on the health indicators and bringing these at a satisfactory level.