ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of National Health Services and provincial and area health departments have finalised an evidence based universal health coverage (UHC) benefits package for the country.
An inter-ministerial health and population forum met in Islamabad to review and provide concurrence on the UHC benefits package on Thursday.
The meeting was attended by health ministers and ministers for population welfare, health secretaries and the directors general of health from all the provinces.
UHC is based on the principle that all individuals and communities have equitable access to their needed healthcare in good quality without suffering financial hardship.
According to a statement issued on Thursday, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on NHS Dr Faisal Sultan said at the forum: “Pakistan is the first country in the world to have used localised evidence on burden of disease and costing data to develop an essential package of health services/ UHC benefit package of Pakistan.”
He said: “Achievement of this milestone and implementation of the package in future will help the country in improving health outcomes and making speedy progress towards UHC.”
In partnership with the World Health Organisation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Disease Control Priorities 3 Secretariat provided technical support to the government through the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Radboud University,the NHS ministry’s System Strengthening and Information Analysis Unit and Health Planning wing, Aga Khan University and the Health Services Academy to assist in the development of a UHC benefits package.
Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmeen Rashid said: “UHC being the outcome and driver of progress is at the centre of all efforts for developing our nation. Prioritising investments in essential health services will bear dividends that will help in taking the country and province forward.”
Dr Azra Pechucho, the Sindh health minister, said: “Health is a human right and quality essential health services should be available to everyone, every time, with a special focus on equity for the most vulnerable in society.”
“Investments in provision of essential health services underpin the reforms that the health care system in Pakistan has been seeking. UHC benefit package provides the opportunity of reforming our health care system,” Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Health Minister Dr Taimoor Khan Jhagra said.
Parliamentary Secretary on Health for Balochistan Dr Rubaba Buledi stated: “Balochistan needs investing in health and reaching out to each and every member of our society is a responsibility that we feel very strongly about and we would ensure all the efforts to take forward the cause of health of our people.”
Gilgit-Baltistan Health Minister Dr Imam Yar Baig said: “UHC benefit package underpinned by evidence is critical for GB considering its difficult terrain and challenges of the health system. UHC BP will help a long way in achieving our health goals.”
Azad Jammu and Kashmir Health Minister Dr Najeed Naqi stated: “Achieving UHC is one of the key targets we are committed to in order to ensure progress in AJK. Investments in quality primary health care are the cornerstone to achieving UHC.”
The WHO’s adviser on UHC, Dr Zafar Mirza, emphasised the need for significantly increased public sector investment at the federal and provincial levels in essential and primary healthcare services, saying that otherwise Pakistan’s health indicators would remain among the worst.
Dr Sultan also presented Dr Mirza with an award recognising his services for UHC during his tenure as special assistant to the prime minister on NHS.
Published in Dawn, October 23rd, 2020