PESHAWAR, March 3: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has drafted a law to curb preventable diseases, according to officials.
The law titled “Preventive Healthcare Bill” is being vetted by the law department before being sent to the provincial assembly. “The draft law seeks to put in place penalties for those not complying with government’s directives regarding health matters,” officials told Dawn.
The new law is part of the government’s plan to restructure the health department after the passage of 18th Amendment as the federal health laws are no longer applicable in the provinces.
“The law is a consolidated form of nine Acts that dealt with health. Most of those laws are more or less the same. Therefore, we decided to make one law to deal with communicable and non-communicable diseases more effectively,” a senior official said.
Officials said that the new law would make it compulsory for parents to immunise their children. Those, who wouldn’t comply with the government’s directives, would be jailed and fined, they added.
“Henceforth, we haven’t any legislation to lodge cases against those parents, who refuse oral polio vaccine, due to which the problem has increased to a level that seems irreversible in the absence of a law,” they said.
A couple of people were arrested last year for refusing polio vaccination under Maintenance of Public Order, which deals primarily with law and order, so they were subsequently released the next day.
The existing laws would stand repealed after the enactment of the bill and those violating health-related laws would be properly arrested and presented in courts.
“The draft law also makes it mandatory upon would-be couples to undergo pre-marriage test as preventive measure to stop spread of thalassaemia, which is 100 avoidable but still haunts children in the province,” officials said.
They said that baby milk manufacturers, who presented their products as substitute to the breastfeeding, would be required to allot 20 per cent space on the packages of their products to the benefits of breastfeeding for infants.
Also they wouldn’t be allowed under the law to misinform people as they would have to describe side effects of their formula milk packets, the officials said.
“It is also aimed at checking the food for which the existing public health laboratory will be strengthened and would be notified by the court as reference lab. The existing food safety Act has also been merged in the draft law to ensure quality of edible items,” they said.
They said that coordination with other line departments such as food, livestock and dairy development, social welfare and water and sanitation departments was must in implementation of the law to get the desired results.
“Prevention of smoking also comes under the law for which penalties have been proposed,” they said, adding that the law also dealt with nutrition, leprosy, thalassaemia, HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and all vaccine-preventable childhood ailments.
“Prohibition of smoking, manufacture and sale of edible products, defiance to vaccination and making it obligatory on Aids and TB patients to seek treatment are the main purposes to put brakes on the preventable ailments and improve healthcare,” officials said.