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March 6, 2021

WHO to strengthen primary health care in Pakistan

Islamabad

March 6, 2021

Islamabad: An international mission comprising eight partners for the Global Action Plan for Health and Wellbeing reaffirmed its commitment to support Pakistan’s efforts towards achieving Universal Health Care (UHC) by focusing on the Primary Health Care (PHC) approach under the Regional Health Alliance (RHA) here on Friday.

Participants at the five-day consultation (March 1-5, 2021) analyzed their strategic collaboration and discussed ways to achieve the highest attainable standards of health in Pakistan in line with the WHO Constitution. The consultations were attended by all the stakeholders, who were joined by provincial health department representatives in person and through web link.

A high-level PHC for UHC forum was convened at the conclusion of the consultations. Dr Faisal Sultan, Special Assistant to the PM for Health appreciated the Mission members and their deliberations with the federal and provincial health ministries and health departments. He thanked the Mission members for identifying pivotal areas which require interventions from the Ministry of Health to help this process.

Addressing the participants through web link, WHO Regional Director Dr. Ahmed Al-Mandhari reaffirmed WHO’s support towards strengthening of PHC. WHO Country Representative in Pakistan Dr. Palitha Mahipala appreciated Pakistan for taking various steps to improve the population’s health status. He mentioned the expansion in coverage of the Sehat Sahulat (Health Insurance) Programme, which will be instrumental in decreasing the financial burden on the marginalized, and endorsement of UHC Benefit Package. He affirmed, “I am confident that these recommendations will help develop strategies and plans for strengthening PHC services and secure sustainable financing to achieve UHC and implementation of the UHC benefit package.” He said, WHO is supporting Pakistan in expansion of UHC by investing in health systems, and is committed to provide complete support in implementing its agenda to achieve the target of UHC by 2030.

“Adaptation of UHC investment case into provincial plans with focus on strengthening district health governance, Lady Health Workers Programme, and a robust health information system, which will accelerate PHC for UHC in Pakistan,” said Aida Girma, UNICEF Representative in Pakistan. “Children and their mothers will benefit from essential health services including immunization through comprehensive primary health care,” she said.

At the end of the meeting, the PHC for UHC joint statement was signed by representatives of federal and provincial health ministries and GAP partners. Improvement in coverage and functionality of PHC is a strategic priority in the National Health Vision 2016-25 and provincial health strategies. Pakistan's UHC investment case sets out six key reforms, which haven been reinforced by the Mission. The reforms include district governance strengthening; progressive increase and diversification of UHC financing, prioritizing community and primary levels; strengthening human resources for Health; ensuring the supply of essential commodities; ensuring equitable access to health services; and improving health care quality in public and private sectors by implementing accountability and performance frameworks and strengthening the role of the Health Commission.

In a joint statement issued at the end of the consultation, the participants renewed their commitment for a more aligned approach towards PHC for UHC, including through the SDG-3 Global Action Plan and Regional Health Alliance. They pledged to work together to build a sustainable PHC model based on primary care and public health functions at the core of integrated health services, multisectoral policy and action, and empowered people and communities.

The meeting took note of the lessons learned through the COVID-19 pandemic response, and the need for building a resilient health system that takes PHC as a cornerstone and that nurtures emergency preparedness.