THIS year on the World Health Day, the world is drawing attention to a group of diseases that is spread by insects and other vectors known as “Vector Borne Diseases”.
According to a press release on Monday, vectors are living organisms that can transmit infectious diseases between humans or from animals to humans. In our country mosquitoes are the carriers of the two well-known diseases: malaria and dengue.
“Rapid un-planned urbanisation, climate change and deforestation have created opportunities for vectors and the diseases to spread,” said Dr. Ashraf Ali Khan, Consultant Infectious Diseases, Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre in a message on the occasion of World Health Day. Poor urban planning perhaps also leads to inadequately screened housing, puddles of rainwater, forlorn water collected in containers that breed mosquitoes, global travel and industry all historically contributing to the spread of disease-causing microbes. According to the World Health Organisation, every year more than 1 billion people are infected and over 1 million die from vector-borne diseases. In addition, disability, work hours lost as well as the strain on healthcare systems from these diseases are enormous as was made patently obvious in 2011, Dr. Ashraf said.
Dr. Ashraf Ali Khan further said that dengue outbreak caused massive casualties in recent past in our country. For many vector-borne diseases like dengue, there are no immediately available vaccines. Vector control plays a vital role and is often the only way to prevent disease outbreaks. Many existing interventions, such as putting screens in doors of homes, insect repellent lotions, insecticide-treated bed-nets and indoor spraying are simple and proven in this regard. At the same time, more investment in research is urgently needed to find improved solutions to fighting vectors and the diseases they transmit.
Dr. Ashraf stated in his message that awareness and education about how to keep our environment clean by eliminating vector breeding sites and basic health knowledge was the key for a healthy nation. With concerted planning and collaboration across sectors including health, agriculture and the environment and support of public, we could tackle these maladies.
Meanwhile, World Health Day has been observed worldwide including Pakistan on Monday, which provides an occasion for the countries to look at their healthcare system and plan accordingly to meet the Millennium Development Goals.
The status of public health in Pakistan is at one of the lowest level in the world. Our infant mortality rate is 90/ 1000 and maternal mortality due to delivery complications is 45/10000. One out of three babies is born with low birth weight. We are spending less than 1% of our GNP on health. Federal budget allocated 240 rupees per person for health in the previous budget. The amount of federal health budget is less than the amount of revenue collected from tobacco companies. Hundreds of thousands of people die of preventable infectious diseases, gastric infections due to unclean water and poor nutrition. According to National Health survey one third of the population above age 45 is suffering from high blood pressure, 27 % males smoke cigarette and about 10% of population is carrier of Hepatitis infection. These figures are alarming and demand an urgent approach. Death toll due to smoking alone is twice more than 2005 earthquake related deaths.
Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMA) has suggested a six-point plan to improve healthcare of Pakistani people by governmental and non-governmental interventions. It stresses more spending on health. Overall expenditure on health has not increased in last many years (0.7% of GNP); increment in 5-10% of absolute amount of health budget is not the solution; allocate at least 3% of GNP (4 fold increase); allocate 90 billion out of 900 billion budget (10% of Federal Budget); provincial governments allocate 10% budget for health; and city governments allocate 10% for health.
It suggested that the focus should be changed toward primary prevention. Mass vaccination against Hepatitis and Tetanus; overall cost of free mass vaccination is 30 billion rupees; allocate one billion each for TB and malaria control; start a National Stroke Prevention programme; ban advertisement of cigarette smoking at all levels; and supply of clean water be the top priority.
It emphasised that nutrition was more important than medications. Food and Nutrition for all pregnant and lactating women and neonates should be ensured; food and nutrition allowance for all infants until age one year; allocate 10 billion rupees and dissemination at UC level.
It also stresses strengthen of basic health unit i.e. functional Basic Health unit at UC level; a post of UC health officer for each UC; primarily responsible for vaccination, malaria prevention, TB control and woman and child nutrition programme; rabies control by controlling dog population; all lady health visitors under UC health officer; primary focus; not family planning but over all preventive health; improve public awareness; subject of Health and Hygiene in school curriculum; health segment in all news segments; allocate a few hours every day on TV and Radio for health awareness; TV, radio and news advertising for health awareness messages at subsidised rates; involvement and funding of professional health societies for awareness programmes and provide free vaccines and cheaper drugs.
The lifesaving drugs should be provided at subsidised cost. Vaccine should be provided free; control the cost of medications; quality control for local industry and local production of vaccines.
medical camp: In connection with the World Health Day, a free medical camp was conducted at Shalimar Hospital Outpatient Department-I on Monday where patients were facilitated by free blood sugar tests, screening of Hepatitis, BMI and Eye Checkup. According to a press release on Monday, awareness literature was provided to the camp.