It is extremely complex, as is today’s world, to exactly define a good health system. World Health Organisation (WHO) defines it to include personal and public health services through inter-sectorial initiatives that primary action is to make better health. The health enhancing interventions like road safety and pollution free environment are also part of system with traditional public health activities of health promotion. A country needs health system that protects all citizens against health and financial risks of illness. The individual physical dignity and integrity is recognized in international law. Health systems need to ensure that people be treated with respect, according to their human rights. It’s not just the financial expenditure made by governments for health systems that matters, but the strategies and procedures for health system effectiveness. Amongst many parameters to define good health care system polio eradication constitutes a fundamental parameter to gauge a country’s performance towards ameliorating health care. 

There was a time, not too long ago, when Pakistan actually became polio free but one of the fallout of war against terror is the massive exodus of people resulting in high levels of dislocation. Added to this is the arcane belief system that considers vaccination un-Islamic, which has caused the spread of polio in the country.  The considerable decrease in polio cases has started paying dividends, as the country has been chosen, for the first time in 21 years, to host a prestigious regional conference of health ministers, to be held this month. In the conference, to be held in Pakistan, health ministers from 22 countries in South Asia, the Middle East, West Asia and North Africa would participate. Without a shadow of doubt it is a great achievement.

The purpose of the conference is to discuss various chronic diseases, including polio, TB, malaria and AIDS, etc. and to hammer out strategies about how the region could be made safer.

According to the data shared by the ministry, Pakistan witnessed a drastic decrease in polio cases, which at one time rose to such an alarming situation that the world was planning to impose a travel ban on Pakistani citizens.

However, due to the Health Ministry’s concerted and coordinated efforts, coupled with the efforts made by the provincial governments, Pakistan brought the polio cases to just two cases in 2017. According to year-wise breakup, a gradual decrease took place. In 2014, a total of 306 cases were reported across the country, 55 in 2015, while in 2016, the polio cases have been reduced to only 20. However, in 2017, so far, only two cases have been reported, and the world greatly acknowledged Pakistan’s efforts in eradicating polio from the country. Pakistan’s progress towards zero polio has been highly appreciated by international donors and development partners in the recently-held regular quarterly briefing to the donors’ community in Pakistan. After recording the lowest ever number of polio cases in 2016, the program has successfully maintained the momentum in 2017.

It was all possible because the prime minister had declared polio eradication as one of the key priorities, placing it as the priority agenda No. 1 of the health sector, which is intractably linked to Sustainable Development Goals and the National Health Vision 2025. At the provincial level, the task forces led by chief ministers and chief secretaries, with the support of respective Emergency Operations Centres are driving this sustained performance.

As many as 3,500 delegates from 194 countries participated at the World Health Assembly, deliberating diverse issues like accelerating the fight against the growing burden of non-communicable diseases across the world, strengthening preparedness for the cross-border spread of epidemics, access to universal health care, eradication of polio, strengthening routine immunization among others. Progress made by Pakistan towards improvement in health sector has been highly acknowledged and appreciated by health gurus across the globe. Pakistan also presided over side events on implementation of international health regulations, universal health coverage, diabetes, tuberculosis control, nutrition, eye health, and blood safety, where the country’s strategies and plans of action were appreciated by the participating countries. This conference is beginning of the many, yet to come, accolades for Pakistan for superior performance in the health sector.