LAHORE - Federal Secretary Health Khushnood Akhtar Lashari has said that new national health policy will be announced at the end of April this year. He said that major work on the national health policy had been completed and various important steps had been suggested to provide maximum relief to the patients in the new health policy. He said this while addressing a seminar titled 'Ten Years Celebrations of Prevention of Blindness Work in Punjab. The seminar was organised by the faculty and staff of College of Opthamology and Allied Vision Sciences (COAVS) at the college auditorium on Sunday. Secretary Government of Pakistan Establishment Division Muhammad Ismail Qureshi attended the seminar as a chief guest. WHO country representative Dr Khalif Bille Mohamad and other senior officers of the health department were also present on the occasion besides Vice Chancellor King Edward Medical University Prof Dr Zafarullah Khan, Medical Superintendent Mayo Hospital Dr Zahid Pervez, Principal/Director General COAVS Prof Dr Asad Aslam Khan and Director Research and Coordination COAVS Dr Imran Ahmad. Khushnood Akhtar said the government had been giving top priority to the health sector. He said huge funds had been allocated to provide healthcare to the masses at their doorsteps. Despite economic pressure the government would provide maximum funds to the health sector to meet the growing challenges in this regard, he commented. While admiring the efforts of the COAVS faculty and other staff for their remarkable achievements in the field of opthamology and allied vision sciences and in the prevention of blindness across the province, the federal secretary health said that provision of huge funds for the prevention of blindness would also be part of the new health policy. He hoped that senior doctors and staff of the college would continue their struggle in their respective field with the same spirit and devotion and assured governments full cooperation in this regard. Addressing the seminar, Secretary Establishment Ismail Qureshi said that one of the growing future challenges is to overcome blindness in Punjab but the goal could be achieved only with sustainability and continuity in the work being done by all the stakeholders. He hoped that the next decade would be the period of success in countering ailments like blindness and all available resources would be utilised to eliminate the eye diseases from the society and to improve the state of healthcare to the patients. On the occasion Prof Dr Asad Aslam Khan highlighted the past ten years achievements in the field, saying that the government of Punjab, health department had established comprehensive eye care cell at Mayo Hospital in 1999. The cell was raised to the status of Punjab Institute of Preventive Opthamology and to College of Opthamology and Allied Vision Sciences in 2007. Since 1999, he said, it was working for the prevention of blindness and eye health in collaboration with NGOs and WHO. The main achievements since 1999 are the upgradation of eye units of all DHQ hospitals, establishment of new eye departments in THQ Shakargarh, Muridke, Taunsa, and Chiniot, refresher courses for district opthalmologists and establishment of diabetic screening centres. Dr Asad said that through primary health care system launched under the national programme for prevention and control of blindness in collaboration with primary healthcare and family planning, health management and information system, funds worth over Rs 120 million were being spent for the said purpose. Pakistan has focused to eliminate eye diseases by 2020 under Vision 2020, he added. He said the national programme had embarked upon a plan to impart training in primary eye care to 20,000 LHWs in Pakistan, and added that trained lady health workers were implementing primary eye care in the country. In Punjab, he said, the training was being imparted to LHWs at 13 training centres while 17 other such training centres were being upgraded in this regard. He said the prevalence rate of blindness in Pakistan was up to 0.9 per cent, as there were 1.4 million blind people in Pakistan including 0.9 million in Punjab. However, he said that 80 per cent of blindness and eye disorders were avoidable, preventable and treatable.