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LAHORE: Punjab health minister Dr Yasmin Rashid has said that for the first time in the country separate healthcare services for elderly people will be started in government hospitals.

“The number of patients with dementia is increasing at an alarming rate, necessitating launch of the much-needed healthcare services for the elderly in the province,” said Dr Yasmin in her keynote speech at a seminar on Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia, arranged by the Alzheimer’s Pakistan in collaboration with the King Edward Medical University (KEMU) here on Thursday.

The minister said a plan would soon be launched in the province in line with the global plan of the WHO on the dementia caused by persistent disorder of the mental processes. Under the plan, she said, geriatric services such as hospital-based memory clinics, resource mobilisation for early diagnosis and treatment, counseling services for caregivers would be provided. Public awareness sessions would also be arranged, she added.

Terming Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia a very painful illness, Dr Yasmin said the patients suffering from it required extra care not only from family but also from society.

Earlier, KEMU Vice-Chancellor Prof Khalid Masud Gondal said understanding and treatment of dementia in countries like Pakistan had been slow, despite rapidly ageing populations.

The resource persons of the seminar -- Prof Aftab Asif, Dr Ali Hashmi and Prof Sajid Obaidullah – said dementia had been a collective name for progressive degenerative brain syndromes. They said the disease affected memory, thinking, behavior and emotion, while the chemistry of the brain changed and cells, nerves and transmitters were attacked. Eventually, the brain shrank as gaps develop, they added.

Dr Hussain Jafri, secretary general of Alzheimer’s Pakistan, said there were around one million patients with dementia in Pakistan, but no services were being provided to them by the government.

“Pakistan is a signatory to WHO’s global plan on dementia, putting the responsibility of increasing awareness, detection, treatment and care of dementia patients on the government,” he said.

DFID NUTRITION PLAN: Minister for Health Dr Yasmin Rashid has welcomed launching of food nutrition programme in Punjab by UK-based Department for International Development (DFID).

During a meeting with a DFID delegation, led by Basic Services Group Leader Dr Ruth Lawson, here on Wednesday, the minister said food nutrition programme could be helpful in achieving primary healthcare targets.

She said another programme to reduce mortality had also been started. The health department would learn from the expertise of DFID in this regard, she said while expressing the hope that the body would extend period of its programme in Punjab. “I will be personally monitoring DFID initiatives,” she said.

Dr Yasmin said all sections of health department would be integrated to avoid wastage of resources and any duplication of schemes.

“I am visiting major healthcare facilities all over the province to ensure provision of need-based facilities and to assess problems of the doctors and allied healthcare staff there,” she said.

Dr Ruth Lawson informed the minister that DFID was running schemes worth 80 million pounds in Punjab and cooperation in family planning would also be increased.

Under food nutrition programme, oil and flour mills would be supported for provision of nutrients like vitamin A, D, E, Zinc and Iron, he said.

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2018