24 February | 2024

Lahore, Pakistan

We need uninterrupted investment in human resource, structure to improve healthcare

Despite systematic efforts with global support, Pakistan still faces myriad of health challenges that have an impact on its population and healthcare system

Pakistan needs uninterrupted investment in infrastructure and human resource to improve healthcare, as health issues pose significant challenges to the well-being and development of our population. We need comprehensive strategies that focus on improving access to healthcare, promoting awareness and preventive measures besides carefully-planned investment in structure and the human resource. We must remember that collaboration between the government, healthcare providers, development sector organizations, and foreign partners is vital to make sustainable progress. Pakistan, by acknowledging and acting on health challenges, can move towards a healthier and more prosperous future for its citizens. We can easily observe that Pakistan faces a myriad of health challenges that have a significant impact on its population and healthcare system.

I want to share an overview of some of the most pressing health issues, based on data available up until September 2021. It is crucial to recognize these challenges to inform policymakers and stakeholders in the country’s efforts to improve healthcare and public health outcomes. First of all, infectious diseases remain a major concern just like other developing countries. It is noted that waterborne diseases like cholera and typhoid are prevalent, particularly in areas with limited access to clean drinking water and sanitation facilities. Vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever pose a burden on the healthcare system, especially during seasonal outbreaks. On the other hand, malnutrition is a pervasive health issue, affecting both children and adults.

‘Access to quality maternal and reproductive healthcare services is limited, particularly in rural and remote areas’

The data shows that Pakistan faces a high prevalence of stunting, wasting, and underweight among children under five, which can lead to long-term health issues and impaired cognitive development. Micronutrient deficiencies, such as iron, iodine, and vitamin A, are also common and contribute to poor health outcomes. Our country struggles with maternal and infant mortality rates. Access to quality maternal and reproductive healthcare services is limited, particularly in rural and remote areas. Lack of proper education and awareness, early marriages, and inadequate healthcare facilities are contributing factors to these concerning statistics. We can also observe that non-communicable diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer, are also on the rise.

Experts believe that urbanization, inactive lifestyles, changing dietary patterns and some other factors have contributed to the increased burden of non-communicable diseases. Limited availability of healthcare facilities and affordable treatment options further exacerbate the problem. Also, some experts believe that mental health issues are still considered as stigma in our society. There is a lack of awareness, limited mental health infrastructure, and inadequate support for those dealing with mental health conditions. The experts consider that depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are prevalent, particularly in vulnerable populations affected by conflict or disasters. On the other hand, Pakistan is one of few countries where poliovirus is active. Despite extensive efforts, misinformation campaigns hinder the government-backed campaigns.