Saira for strong focus on equity, social protection as priority for global health

ISLAMABAD, May 24 (APP): Minister for National Health Services Saira Afzal Tarar has called for greater emphasis on equity in access to health-care and people-centered set of universal and transformative goals and targets for the future.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), she said, with strong focus on equity would serve to ensure that “no one is left behind”.
Addressing the 196-nation World Health Assembly in Geneva, the minister said health was positioned as a major contributor to the other SDGs, and reciprocally benefitted from progress towards them, according to a message received here from Switzerland on Tuesday.

The challenges we face, she said, were related to building health systems capable of providing integrated, people-centered care.

She said addressing new health priorities without compromising existing programmes required careful balance. The non-communicable diseases, she added, were becoming a global challenge in developed and developing countries alike. They would sooner or later overwhelm the existing health system capacities unless rapid investments were made in disease prevention and health promotion.
Noting the need to strengthen linkages between health, development and humanitarian work, the minister said a growing concern in many countries would be how to better integrate humanitarian and development assistance.
She informed the Assembly that Pakistan was taking strides in prioritizing universal health coverage through launching Prime Minister’s National Health Programme for population living below poverty line.

The programme, she said, was being implemented across the country in phases and was providing free of cost treatment to hundreds of thousands of families through both public and private health facilities.

She said that Pakistan was giving attention to implementation of International Health Regulations to stop spread of disease across borders in a globalised world.

Most recently, she said,”we have completed our Joint External Evaluation of International Health Regulations and Global Health Security Agenda.”

The External Evaluation assessed the country’s capacity to prevent, detect and rapidly respond to public health threats, she added.

The minister said that Pakistan was the first country in the Eastern Mediterranean Region and in Asia to volunteer for this assesment.

On polio eradication, Saira Tarar informed the global health
leadership that the country had taken major strides to arrest spread of polio with 11 cases restricted to three well-defined regions as compared to 24 in corresponding period last year.
This year 9 per cent environmental samples were found positive as compared to 22 per cent last year, she said, adding that the intensity and distribution of wild poliovirus had declined significantly.

Aggressive campaigns were being undertaken in 2016 to stop poliovirus transmission with major strides in security for teams, campaign quality and monitoring, she added.