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November 2, 2019

Powerful states’ lust for power diverts focus from health issues: president

National

November 2, 2019

LAHORE: President Dr Arif Alvi has lamented that powerful countries’ lust for power through occupation of lands diverted the focus from real issues of health, human development and poverty reduction.

“India has occupied Jammu & Kashmir through illegal annexation and pushed the region into conflict, that deviated the actual priorities for the worse,” he said while addressing the “1st PNDS International Conference on Non-Communicable Diseases” organised by Pakistan Nutrition and Dietetic Society in collaboration with The Nutrition Society, UK, at a local hotel Friday.

He said Prime Minister Imran Khan also laid out a policy of normalising relations with India from day one, saying that Pakistan and India had more or less similar challenges to tackle issues of health and poverty for human development for progress and prosperity of the region. “Any political tension, internal or external, changes the focus from real issues,” he added.

During his recent visits for coronation ceremony in Japan and then Baku, the president observed that Pakistan’s respect had increase in the comity of nations, especially in the last few years – thanks mainly to recent developments such as a befitting response to India’s misadventure in Balakot, mediating role between warring countries, speaking at global forums to combat Islamophobia and xenophobia.

While talking about Non-Communicable Diseases, president said Pakistan needed to shift focus from curative to preventive policy, which would not just improve public health but also relieve strain on the economy. “We need to create role models to improve public health. Former US president Barrack Obama used to walk five kilometres daily that inspired American people to adopt such healthy habits,” he said, adding that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s imagery of an athlete needed to be promoted to inspire people to adopt exercise as a way of life.

“I, myself, prefer climbing stairs than using the elevator,” he said, adding that exercise was a way of life rather than an activity in the clubs. “We must shun artificial image of exercise, where people must spare time for an additional activity. Exercise must be a part of our lives,” he said, adding that abandoning exercise, when it’s not part of our lives but an additional activity, causes muscle wasting. Therefore, he said, it is all the more important to make exercise a part of routine activities. “Pakistan Nutrition and Dietetic Society should add another word in its title to make it Pakistan Nutrition, Dietetic and Exercise Society,” he advised.

He said women secured up to 70 to 80 percent of admissions in medical colleges every year, and after graduation, they engage themselves in rearing their children. “As much as it is important to do good upbringing of next generation, it is equally as bigger a responsibility to return the favour to the nation by practicing medicine after acquiring graduation degrees to serve the ailing humanity,” he added.

However, he said the system does not welcome those who want to join the medical profession after a long break. He assured of removing hurdles for helping such female doctors for rejoining the profession.

Moreover, he also urged the PG trainees to serve one year of their specialisation in the periphery in order to serve the ailing humanity at the grassroots level. “The nutrition must be utilised as the first aid intervention to help prevent stunting and other diseases,” he said, however, he added that whenever there was any attempt to change people’s habits or lifestyles, there comes resistance from within the society. “It is like if a government tries to root out corruption, it faces resistance from within the society,” he further added. He said anything whose import was banned in Pakistan was easily available everywhere, adding for instance, the import of betel nuts was banned in country but it was easily available in markets. Same is the case with drugs and alcohol. “The developed countries have imposed “sin tax” on tobacco and sugary drinks to discourage their use and prevent diseases, but any such initiative in Pakistan becomes controversial,” he regretted.

Therefore, he said, it is of paramount importance to focus on awareness to achieve the desired results. He said non-communicable diseases caused mortality earlier in Pakistan than some of the developed countries, adding that Pakistan must also move towards achieving the longevity in life attained by advanced nations by bringing health and happiness in lives of the people. Although it is yet too far to run electric vehicles, the president emphasised to shift towards non-polluting vehicles for combating air pollution in the country. He advised Pakistan Nutrition and Dietetic Society and all such organisations to visit schools and review children’s syllabus with a view to incorporating subjects or topics for healthy living. “We must move towards the goal of healthy and happy Pakistan,” he added.

The Nutrition Society, UK, president Prof Julie Lovegrove said the global life expectancy had doubled in the last 150 years, adding that non-communicable diseases had increased as compared to infectious diseases, which had actually reduced. Globally, she said, the physical activity has reduced and availability of junk food has increased resulting in malnutrition and obesity. “There are approximately two billion obese people in the world,” she added.

She said The Nutrition Society, UK, had embarked on creating centres of excellence in low and middle income countries in order to improve people’s health by combating malnutrition. “That’s why we are here and taking action in Pakistan,” she added. Dr Romaina Iqbal, a nutrition expert from Aga Khan Hospital, Karachi, highlighted 4x4 – four NCDs and four shared modifiable risk factors.

Besides, founder and honorary life president of PNDS Dr Salma Badruddin, president Ms Faiza Khan and Prof Ghazala Zaman also spoke on the occasion.