World Health Day is marked every year on April 7 to highlight the significance of a healthy lifestyle and importance of awareness regarding it.

This year’s theme is ‘Universal health coverage: everyone, everywhere’. The theme is quite relevant especially to developing countries like Pakistan, as to a certain extent; health stands last in the list of priorities of a common person.

These views were expressed by Dr Faisal Sultan, Chief Executive Officer, Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre (SKMCH&RC) while talking to media persons at the hospital on the occasion of World Health Day.

Dr Faisal said: “Health is everyone’s business and in their interest. No real changes occur unless society at large is involved. The improvement in many health parameters have happened in the West due to improvements in sectors other than health like sanitation, health education and awareness. Unfortunately we are lagging far behind in this field and a classic proof of this is typhoid illness which usually spreads due to bad sanitation. It travels through feces into the sewerage system and onwards into drinking water supply, reaches the human body.

“However, there is much more to just improving health sector. It also concerns general education, health education, food supply safety, good municipal administration, to name justa few, and on a large scale, it is called ‘one health concept’ that covers not only human health but environment and animal health as well.”

Dr Faisal further added: “Awareness about healthy lifestyle and its prerequisites is very important especially in the era of social media and incorrect or fake news. We see people believing lots of wrong information regarding vaccinations and other health issues. The ability to research out correct and scientifically valid information is ever more important today.”

Dr Faisal said that: “On this world health day we must analyze and figure out what are the major health hazards in our country. We are still to combat malnutrition, maternal and child mortality, diarrheal diseases, infections of a number of types including tuberculosis, hepatitis, mental health and other issues. As a developing country, while we still face infections and their impact, we also face non communicable diseases like diabetes and kidney diseases.”

Describing the role played by SKMCH&RC in improving health awareness and in provision of health care facilities, Dr Faisal Sultan said: “Other than providing cutting edge diagnostic and therapeutic services to thousands of cancer patients, Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre has also played a vital role in imparting and improving awareness level of common public through extensive campaigns on various health issues especially on smoking and breast cancer. The presence of a high profile patron like Imran Khan has helped propel the message about the curability of many cancers and the need for prevention and early detection. In addition to the treatment of patients and awareness drives, one most significant and proud contribution to the health sector is training of health professionals, para-medical staff, nurses, health care professionals and doctors.”

Talking about the various ways to improve health, he elaborated that: “It is important to watch what you eat. Always take a mixed and balance diet comprising ingredients especially vegetables, fruits and nuts. Make exercise part of your daily routine and maintain an ideal body weight. Besides, vaccinate, it can help avoiding many viral and infectious diseases. Smoking causes a numbers of heart cancer related and other diseases, save you by avoiding smoking. Ensure personal, especially dental hygiene. And last not but the least, get regular checkups for yourself and your family and never hesitate to report unexplained symptoms and conditions to your doctor.”

While answering some questions about the government’s role in the health sector, he was of the view that: “Through its efforts, the government can change the entire scenario of the prevailing situation. This sector needs allocation of better resources and management of existing resources in an improved way. Capable management in the health sectors whether in preventive or curative health is crucial.“

Dr Faisal Sultan wrapped up by saying that: “Health has a very broad and big agenda. The government’s role is to regulate quality and not prices, to maintain at least minimum standards.”

The writer is Chief Executive Officer, Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre.