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January 3, 2015

Key public health threats of 2014 that may loom large in current year


January 3, 2015

A number of serious health threats including both the infectious and non-communicable diseases that had been prevailing for long in the country hit population more severely in 2014 and the threats may figure more prominently in the current year if the government do not adopt an extraordinary strategy.
The heaviest burden of disease that the country faced in 2014 was of polio as not less than 300 per cent increase in polio incidence was recorded in the last one year with reports of well over 290 confirmed cases of the disease.
The district health departments in the federal capital and the provinces remained busy in carrying out activities to avoid dengue fever outbreak and to eradicate polio from their premises throughout the year in 2014 but the threats continued to haunt population and dengue fever outbreaks were reported in scattered areas of the country including Rawalpindi.
Control on dengue fever and eradication of polio were not the only challenges in the year 2014, as the country continued to face double burden of diseases, the infectious diseases and non-communicable diseases.
Statistics reveal that the concerned authorities in the country could not control the burden of communicable diseases like Tuberculosis, malaria, dengue fever, typhoid, viral hepatitis, and cholera along with a number of other seasonal infections while a rising trend of non-communicable diseases like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension and cancer was also recorded in the country in 2014.
Many health experts are of the view that majority of population in Pakistan got affected by conflicts like terrorists’ activities across a major part of the country that put millions of people at health risk. Experts say that in the existing situation, the government should invest significantly to improve emergency medical care services.
The security threat in the country particularly in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa hampered activities to

eradicate polio and restricted government authorities from taking any significant measures to check and control on a number of other diseases.
It is worth mentioning here that more than 80 per cent of the confirmed polio cases were reported from the areas where a warlike situation is prevailing because of military operations against terrorists.
The terrorists’ activities has emerged as a major factor behind emergence of a number of health threats in the country and according to experts, the country needs a special strategy to deal with the problems in warlike situation. The concerned high-ups in the government should keep in mind not only the key public health issues of 2014 but also the critical circumstances, the country has been facing while developing strategies for the year 2015.
Epidemic tobacco use, deadly tuberculosis, the link between social factors and health, unequal access to health care, and a rise in chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and cancer remained the health problems to be resolved.
According to experts, Pakistan continued to put efforts to improve primary healthcare across country in 2014 yet a lot is to be done. Climate change, which continued to endanger health and food safety were among major health issues that needs to be given more attention.
Experts say that Pakistan needs to invest a lot on research on most effective measures to protect health from climate change particularly in vulnerable populations such as women, children and elderly in the country.
It is also believed that the economic downturn has also put ripple effects on health and social spending, especially in developing countries like Pakistan. Protecting investments in health and social structures is essential to maintain stability and security, and accelerate economic recovery.
In the existing circumstances, it is need of the time to develop trauma centres at least in all major cities of the country however almost no significant measures have so far been taken for the purpose. Like the past, social inequities and injustice continued to kill people on a grand scale.
The infectious diseases which especially hit Pakistan in 2014 and made headlines in the media were gastroenteritis, dengue fever, Crimean-Congo Haemorrhagic Fever and Naegleria. Thousands of cases of gastro and dengue fever were reported in various cities of Pakistan including Rawalpindi and Lahore.
Health experts believe that the major health threats that hit population in 2014 would continue to record rising trend in 2015 unless the government would not allocate a separate additional budget well in time for prevention, control and treatment of the said infections and diseases.

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