Islamabad: The Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMA) has launched a working paper on National Health Policy on the occasion of World Health Day. It comprises practical suggestions as to how the obsolete present system of health delivery in Pakistan can be changed to a much better one.
Firstly, the paper demands that health be declared a ‘fundamental right’ of all Pakistani citizens in the Constitution of Pakistan and a national health survey be conducted every ten years. The findings of this survey should form the basis of steps to be taken to improve the health sector.
The organisation has emphasised the immediate need for an increase in the health budget from Rs400 billion to Rs600 billion as the present amount is insufficient to cater for masses. It also advised that the budget be increased by Rs100 billion every year. To this end, it has suggested that taxes (Rs120-150 billion) collected from tobacco, beverages and junk food industries be spent on the health sector. About 30% of the federal and provincial governments’ spending on the health sector should be spent on disease prevention, awareness and nutrition. Out of this 30%, it has suggested that 5% be spent on medical research which has been neglected for decades, and 10% of the total expenditure of the federal and provincial government health departments be spent on rehabilitation of the disabled.
The paper advises that hepatitis B and C, HIV and AIDS, tobacco control, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer prevention, mental health, as well as neonatal and maternal health be given priority at the national and provincial levels.
The working paper points out that EPI vaccination coverage of about 80% of the population in Pakistan should be expanded to 98 to 100%. Newborns in particular should be provided with free hepatitis vaccine, the paper adds.
PIMA has also called for prioritisation of women’s health. Similarly, steps should be taken to determine the nutritional status of children under three years of age, and those who are malnourished should be provided with nutrition if the mortality rate in newborns and mothers is to be reduced. Pakistan has one of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the world.
The working paper points out that out of the total deaths due to non communicable diseases, 40% are related to tobacco use. It has called for newer and effective strategies to prevent tobacco use.