Bringing Primary Healthcare To Your Doorsteps

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IHHN believes that access to the best healthcare facilities is the basic right of every human being

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Published: Wed 23 Mar 2022, 12:00 AM

The right to health is the economic, social, and cultural right to which all individuals are entitled. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the key towards achieving universal healthcare for all is to provide primary healthcare facilities across the region. Pakistan is the fifth most populous country in the world, but more than 50 per cent of the population does not have access to basic healthcare services. This means that more than 110 million families do not have the luxury to visit a healthcare facility, even in desperate times of need. Due to the lack of accessibility and affordability, 57 out of 1,000 newborns die at birth, and 186 out of 100,000 mothers die during childbirth. These numbers call for an immediate provision of preventive, curative, and rehabilitative services for all its citizens.

Indus Hospital and Health Network (IHHN) plays a pivotal role in improving Pakistan’s healthcare scenario through its vast network. IHHN started functioning in 2007 with the emergence of the Indus Hospital (TIH) in Korangi, Karachi, which soon became a model hospital. During the first decade of its existence, the hospital transformed into a health network of multiple hospitals across the country. Most of these hospitals were tertiary care facilities based in urban cities. This meant that the rural population had no option but to travel all the way from their villages to reach a decent healthcare facility. Therefore, following international recommendations, the network soon shifted its focus from tertiary care hospitals to primary care. This is the only solution to provide healthcare at the community level and lessen the burden on more prominent hospitals.

Pakistan is a resource-limited country plagued with the prevalence of malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, amongst many other diseases. Indus Hospital and Health Network has a dedicated directorate to combat community-health issues, mostly pertaining to the rural areas of Pakistan, known as the Community Health Directorate (CHD). The objective of CHD is to administer preventive and curative measures, by improving access to health related information and healthcare services for the rural / migratory population of Pakistan. It aims to provide specialised primary healthcare facilities to communities dispersed across the impoverished districts of Pakistan.

The directorate currently manages several public health programmes in collaboration with different national and international donor agencies. These include infectious diseases, maternal and neonatal child health, non-communicable diseases, global surgery, mental health, and primary care programme. CHD is currently working across Pakistan and has impacted millions of lives of the people living in vulnerable communities.

The Primary Care Programme (PCP) is the key initiative of CHD and was initiated in 2017. It directly addresses the growing need for providing free-of-cost and high-quality care at first contact for our population. The programme integrates family medicine with public health interventions and focuses on preventive care through community-based teams linked to each centre. Services in each facility are customised based on an assessment of the surrounding community to match the healthcare needs of the population and to improve the overall health indicators of Pakistan. Currently, there are 26 independent sites run under PCP across Pakistan; however, IHHN plans to scale the programme to 50 independent sites across Pakistan.

The PCP seeks to improve patients’ first point of entry by introducing continuous, personalised, and quality primary care countrywide, tailored to the needs of the facility’s catchment population. Each PCP offers integrated health delivery: At any site, patients can avail nutrition counseling and immunisation, receive treatment for infectious diseases (such as TB and Hepatitis C), and confidential counseling for anxiety and depression. Community engagement centres engage residents by empowering dialogue and partners with local schools to train Kiran Sitara girls — young volunteers who spread health awareness in their locality and help identify presumptive patients. In remote areas such as Bhong in Punjab, site staff regularly run free medical camps. By engaging communities around the clinic, primary care can assess healthcare needs, adjust services, and expand for maximum impact and benefit.

Some of the achievements of the primary care program are the following; inauguration of the Martin Dow — IHHN’s community health centre at Baba Island in Sindh, Pakistan’s first-ever mobile boat clinic in Punjab, mobile medical buses deployed in Badin and Tharparkar in Sindh, and numerous training and workshops at the community level. During 2020-21, more than 1,500,000 patients have benefited through 26 PCP sites in Pakistan.

IHHN believes that these facilities are a solution to address the healthcare needs of local populations. Primary Healthcare facilities are pivotal for the flourishment of rural districts and their surrounding areas, where inaccessibility to healthcare leads to individuals to forgoing primary healthcare needs.

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