ISLAMABAD: Pakistan does not have credible data for the health sector, mostly because over half the services are provided by the private sector which does not share its data with the government, National Institute of Health Executive Director Prof Dr. Aamer Ikram told President Dr. Arif Alvi on Wednesday.
He said the passage of the Public Health Act (PHA) will bind the private sector to share its data with NIH, which will make it possible to make policies in accordance with the country’s requirements.
The president was visiting the Institute for the first time since he assumed office and was shown the various departments of NIH including the Emergency Operation Centre, which conducts real-time surveillance of issues such as tuberculosis, malaria and the Expanded Program of Immunisation.
He was informed about the manufacturing of different vaccines and other incentives.
Dr. Ikram told Dawn that PHA will be the first act which will bring the private sector in the government’s ambit.
“It will make clear who will be responsible for declaring emergencies regarding diseases and directives will be issued and policies will be made in light of the data,” he said.
“Rs1 spent on preventive measures can save the Rs100 spent on treatment. It is unfortunate that we are not spending on the prevention of diseases and have been spending more on treatment,” he said.
Dr. Ikram said the president was informed that NIH will also prepare the first dental policy of Pakistan.
“No one cares about teeth in Pakistan and people start developing dental issues from a young age, which get complicated with time. A dentist by profession, the president appreciated the proposal and assured us of his support for it,” he said.
“He was told that NIH’s virology lab analyses 73 sewage samples, 53 from across Pakistan and 20 from Afghanistan, to screen then for the polio virus every month,” he said.
“Many viruses transmit from animals to humans such as the Congo Virus or the Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever. So, we have established a zoonotic and vector-borne diseases lab which will play its role in stopping the transfer of viruses from animals to humans,” Dr. Ikram said.
A statement quotes Minister for National Health Services Aamer Mehmood Kiani as saying that NIH is a national asset, has enormous potential and is contributing towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
“One of our major targets was reviving the production of measles vaccine at NIH. This was critical in the backdrop of the growing incidence of the disease and epidemics of the disease in different parts of the country. With concerted collective effort we were able to achieve this objective,” he said.
“Another major issue was [upgrading] laboratory facilities, a task that had been successfully undertaken. Bio-Safety Level III laboratory that conforms to global standards was our first initiative at NIH,” he said.
Prof. Dr. Aamer Ikram said the production of a number of vaccines including measles, tetanus, and diphtheria has been started.
Landmark initiatives have been taken to bring NIH at par with international standards, he said. The production of measles vaccine for children which was stalled for seven years has been made functional and Rs751 million have been approved for the production of Sera which is a major step forward and would meet critical demand of vaccine and Sera, Dr. Ikram said.
Health Secretary retired Capt Zahid Saeed and Director General Health Dr. Assad Hafeez was present on the occasion.