The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Government is taking the lead in efforts towards reformation of the healthcare system by launching an Integrated Disease Surveillance System that will use real-time data as health indicators in order to take timely preventive measures to prevent the outbreak of epidemics. The project is due to pilot for 18 months in six districts to measure its success before implementing it in the whole province. The key to prevent the outbreak of disease is communication and timely action. It is unfortunate that in this day and age children in Pakistan are still dying of easily preventable diseases like diphtheria and measles, simply because of lack of access to vaccinations and basic healthcare. Access to affordable and quality healthcare is a basic human right and Pakistan is far behind in the provision of this right. This must change and fast.

The program aims to research disease trends and link them to healthcare professionals through the Internet and text messages to ensure rapid communication, so that action can be taken immediately as soon as alerts are issued, as in the case of measles and diphtheria. In the aftermath of the 2005 earthquake the World Health Organisation put in place the Disease Early Warning System (DEWS) to keep track of the prevalence of diseases in calamity-affected population. Unfortunately then the lack of commitment of the government did not use the opportunity to place a more permanent system of tracking diseases once the WHO project phased out.

Top thinkers from around the world—be they public health workers, medical technicians, or politicians—agree that we need better surveillance tools and tracking methods. The term ‘surveillance’ puts Pakistan on an edge, as it involves looking into public health records or our social behavior patterns, especially since we can’t even update the census. Research and data collection takes the least prominence in our current organisational structure, hence most public sectors are suffering.

In recent times with the global outbreak of the zika virus and ebola and the panic that ensued, has the world asking the question; are our monitoring and response systems robust enough to cope with the variety and scale of multiple outbreaks? If the developed world is grappling to cope with the outbreak of various new threats, Pakistan is lagging far far behind. It is time that Pakistan makes the utmost effort to reform its healthcare as well as monitoring and response systems for preventable outbreaks to protect itself from the worst.