Tangible improvement in health sector due to deliverance: Saira Afzal Tarar

April 13, 2018

ISLAMABAD (NNI): Federal Minister for National Health Services Saira Afzal Tarar said that healthcare remains top most priority agenda in the social sector and the National Health Vision 2016-25 is a testament to that.

The health vision was developed by Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination 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. While she was addressing special event in connection with World Health day today in Islamabad.

Minister said 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.

Minister said 3 million poor families living in 41 focused districts across Pakistan are currently accessing indoor health care services from 135 empanelled hospitals. The program is being expanded to eventually cover all districts of the country.

Minister said tuberculosis is undoubtedly one of Pakistan’s biggest health crises. It kills almost 44000 Pakistanis every year and causes considerable economic losses. Pakistan commits to end TB epidemic by 2030 and MNHSRC has developed an action plan for next 3 years with a total cost of 500 million USD 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.

She said Malnutrition with a prevalence of 45% 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 US$7.6 billion or around 3% of GDP every year. Considering the crisis situation in Nutrition, the matter may be brought on the agenda of CCI to achieve a multi sectoral coordinated response.

She further said 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% per annum is one of the highest in the world while contraceptive prevalence of only 35% 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 ministry has been taking appropriate measures to address the issues however in order to further prioritise this very critical area it is suggested to have a threadbare discussion in CCI to formulise robust policies and allocate resources.

The Minister said 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% coverage in one survey whereas another survey shows 20% coverage in the same region. These stark differences are commonly attributable to the varying methodologies of assessment and biases.

Tarar said the Ministry National Health has started working with Bill Gates Foundation, 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 500 mill PKR).

Minister said 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 3% of GDP in next 5 years as envisaged in Pakistan National Vision 2025 i.e. 0.5% of GDP annually) in order to have a meaningful impact on the health indicators and bringing these at a satisfactory level.