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PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has launched Integrated Disease Surveillance System to ascertain information about health indicators and take desired measures to prevent outbreak of diseases, according to officials.

“The government is piloting an 18-month project with the financial assistance of DFID in six districts to know about disease’s trend and take quick action and prevent occurrence of epidemics,” Dr Shaheen Afridi, deputy director of public health, told Dawn.

The programme is aimed at focusing on priority diseases in the designated districts and controlling epidemic besides applying brakes on preventable deaths.

It is an innovative programme and all in the network are linked through mobile phone SMS and internet to ensure prompt exchange of integrated information and alerts are issued in case of measles and diphtheria to quickly respond.

The programme is being launched in Buner, Karak, Nowshera, Dera Ismail Khan, Haripur and Lakki Marwat with plans of extension following phasing out of the Disease Early Warning System (DEWS), started by the World Health Organisation in seven districts in 2005 after the earthquake and later extended it to 14 districts to know about prevalence of diseases in calamity-affected population.

Pilot project launched in six districts likely to be extended to entire province

Dr Shaheen said that district oversight committee comprising deputy commissioners, local government representatives, district health officer and members of the district government departments would be constituted and a disease surveillance unit at the directorate of health would coordinate the operations and receive updates from the selected districts.

She said that government had shown commitment to extend the programme to the entire province on the basis of its effectiveness in disease control at the local level. “The government will also know about the cost of the programme in the specified districts to implement it in other districts accordingly,” she added.

Standardisation of facilities in line with the WHO’s guidelines is also part of the programme because the system will also identify gaps and weaknesses that hamper patients’ treatment.

Dr Shaheen said that it would cover 23 diseases. According to her, the WHO and National Institute of Health are imparting three-day training to medics about the new system.

“We will cover all health facilities in the district and in case of rising trend in any disease, coordinated action will be taken on the basis of epidemiological findings,” said Dr Shaheen.

Dr Asif, the coordinator of the orogramme, said that field visits of doctors had also been planned during training to ensure scientific reporting as the statistics collected through the system would be utilised by government to formulate policy about prevention and control of diseases.

He said that there were no hard and fast rules and new diseases could be added to the system while others could be deleted upon epidemiological field reports. “For example, yellow fever has not been emerged in Pakistan yet, but if it does, we can include it our list of diseases,” he added.

Dr Asif said that following completion of training of staffers, there would be trials to see if they worked properly in the field. “It will be teamwork, connected through proper networking, for correct identification of diseases to put in place comprehensive response on the basis of scientific causes of the multiple infections covered under the programme,” he added.

Published in Dawn, March 1st, 2016