ISLAMABAD – April 7 is celebrated as World Health Day worldwide and today this day will be celebrated across the world including Pakistan.

The day provides an occasion for the countries to look at their healthcare system and plan accordingly to meet the millennium development goals. The status of public health in Pakistan is at one of the lowest levels in the world. Infant mortality rate in the country is 90/1000 and maternal mortality due to delivery complications is 45/10000. One out of three babies are born with low birth weight. The country is spending less than 1 per cent of our GNP on health. Federal budget allocated 240 rupees per person for health in the previous budget. The amount of federal health budget is less than the amount of revenue collected from Tobacco companies.

Hundreds of thousands of people die of preventable infectious diseases, gastric infections due to unclean water and poor nutrition. According to National Health survey one third of population above age 45 is suffering from high blood pressure, 27 per cent males smoke cigarette and about 10 per cent of population is carrier of Hepatitis infection. These figures are alarming and demand an urgent approach. Death toll due to smoking alone is twice more than 2005 earthquake related death.

Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMA), a representative organisation of doctors, has suggested a six-point plan to improve health of Pakistani people by governmental and non-governmental interventions. The recommendations include spending more on health, providing free vaccines and cheaper drugs, focusing primary prevention, strengthening basic health units, improving public awareness regarding nutrition that is important than medications.

Dr Misbah-ul-Aziz, President, Pakistan Islamic Medical Association, said overall expenditure on health has not increased in last many years that remain 0.7 percent of GNP. Increment in 5-10 percent of absolute amount of health budget is not the solution. The government must allocate at least 3 percent of GNP (4 fold increase) and allocate 90 billion out of 900 billion budget (10% of Federal Budget). The Provincial governments should allocate 10 percent budget for health and the City governments need to allocate 10 percent for health.

The association suggested to start a National Stroke Prevention program and allocation of one billion each for TB and Malaria control for mass vaccination against Hepatitis and Tetanus. Food and Nutrition be provided to all pregnant and lactating women and neonates and food and nutrition allowance be given to all infants until age one year. It said that Basic Health units at UC level should be made functional and a post of UC health officer be created for each UC. Rabies be controlled by controlling dog population.

The subject of Health and Hygiene be included in school curriculum and there should be a health segment in all segments of media programmes. It also demanded that the cost of life saving drugs be subsidised and vaccine should be provided free of cost to the public. There should be a quality control for local industry and the cost of medications should also be controlled.