THIS refers to the article ‘Foundation of healthcare’ (Sept 24) in which the writer, a former aid to the prime minister on health, highlighted the importance of primary healthcare (PHC) in an effort to achieve universal health coverage (UHC). He eloquently laid out the perimeters of what constitutes the PHC, and rightly pointed out that it is not just about curative services, but also about providing preventative, promotive and rehabilitative care.

When the writer lamented the weak structure of PHC services currently available to the majority of population, it brought to mind that the Sehat Sahulat Programme (SSP), a flagship state initiative regarding health reforms, underwent major expansion during the writer’s time in the corridors of power. But the initiative conspicuously did not, and still does not, cover any kind of outpatient services that can actually improve the PHC level. Besides, the programme also does not cover psychiatric treatments, including drug addiction and rehabilitation services.

According to a study, less than five per cent of Pakistan’s population has access to basic health units (BHUs) and rural health centres (RHCs), and both of these facilities are primarily designed to provide PHC, and which the current health policy overlooks.

As the writer has himself emphasised that a drastic shift towards PHC is needed, one hopes that the SSP will expand to address this very important and rather glaring blind spot in the national healthcare delivery system.

Dr Juwayriyah Qazi

Published in Dawn, October 16th, 2021


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