Health, nutrition must be top priority on national development agendas: Speakers

ISLAMABAD – Speakers at an inauguration of a two-day training course on health and hospital management commenced at COMSTECH on Tuesday said that health and nutrition must be at the top priority on national development agendas in order to cope with the future pandemics and health emergencies.
Representative of the World Health Organization in Pakistan, Dr. Palitha Gunarathna Mahipala was the chief guest of the inauguration session.
Speaking on the occasion, he said health system management was important, we needed to have disciplined health sector management, curriculum and trained personnel to manage the health sector.
He suggested that health sector managers should manage in an effective and efficient way by looking at the resources available.
“The world is in transition: demographic, lifestyle, and economic transition, which warrants us to manage health systems well in compliance with the changing world,” he said. Dr. Mahipala appreciated the response and management of COVID by the government of Pakistan and said it was unified, outstanding and unique and many countries can learn from that. He informed that coordination and governance, science and epidemiology and communication are the three pillars to respond to any emergency effectively. “Going to hospital is riskier than climbing Mount Everest. He mentioned that people go to hospital to get treatment of one disease and unfortunately come back home with another infection,” Dr. Mahipala said. He stressed that patient safety and equity was most important and said when it came to healthcare delivery we needed to talk and care about it.
The keynote speaker of the session, Professor and Executive Director, Institute of Global Public Health, University of Manitoba, Canada, Dr. James Blanchard said that academic institutions were doing more in research and training but not necessarily thinking about the vital role of leadership in the public health system. He said it was important to think about the importance and strengthening of health systems which was going to be the critical aspect of the success and challenges for sustainable development goals (SDGs). He said to achieve SDGs health goals, access, quality and utilization of key health services were essential.  Dr. James said that to achieve greater equity, clinical services need to be accessible to socially and economically marginalized people. He informed that the planning of health systems and distribution of resources was critical. He concluded by mentioning that effective coverage of hospital-based clinical services was a key element of reaching SDGs, and organization and strengthening of the hospital sector required both health system planning and clinical quality improvement.Vice Chancellor, Health Services Academy, Prof. Dr. Shahzad Ali Khan said in his remarks that Polio, Dengue and COVID have shifted our focus towards public health which was not a priority for a long time.
These diseases created the demand for public health care, which the government responded to.
It resulted in improvement in the public health system in Pakistan, however, it still needs a lot more to be done in this sector.
He said that the area of management was missing, and public health sector managers needed a diversified skill set. Coordinator General COMSTECH, Prof. Dr. M. Iqbal Choudhary welcomed the participants.  He said that this training course was extremely important to improve healthcare delivery in OIC member states.  Prof. Choudhary said that OIC nations suffered with weak and fragile healthcare systems.
He said the health care system in these countries suffered from improper management, inadequate funding, lack of policy, infrastructure and compromised quality, which needed an immense improvement.  He suggested that health and nutrition had to be at top priority on the national development agenda, otherwise we would not be able to face the next pandemic and other health emergencies of the future, he informed.

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