Creating a healthier Pakistan

Filed on March 23, 2021

The Indus Hospital and Health Network has been paramount in bringing state-of-the-art facilities within the country

The World Health Organization (WHO) advocates for the right of health as a universal human right - one which is both central to, and dependent upon the realization of other human rights such as food and education.

Pakistan is a resource-limited country. Plagued with extreme income and social inequalities, over 50 per cent of this fifth most populous country in the world, has no access to primary care services. The disease burden of Pakistan is mainly attributed to infectious and non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, hepatitis B & C, HIV/AIDS, polio, tuberculosis, and pediatric and adult cancer. Apart from these, the infant mortality rate in Pakistan is 56 per 1,000 live births, in contrast to 28 in India and six in Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, the country's doctor to patient ratio remains at a grim one for every 1,200 patients. In the context of international targets set by the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, the lag in key health indicators compared to other developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region is clear evidence of the health emergency Pakistan is faced with. Behind these abysmal statistics lie heart-breaking stories of lives ruined and lost due to the unavailability of affordable healthcare. 

Troubled with the dismal landscape of Pakistan's health sector, founder and CEO Dr Abdul Bari Khan, along with other prominent businessmen and philanthropists, set out on their mission of providing equitable and high-quality medical care to the people of Pakistan - providing a glimmer of hope to the entire country. Since its inception in 2007, The Indus Hospital (TIH) has grown. It has 12 hospitals, either owned or managed by TIH (under the umbrella of public-private partnerships), four regional blood centres, four physical and rehabilitation centres, Pakistan's largest pediatric oncology unit, primary care centers, and multiple innovative public health programmes. It is due to the renaissance; Indus Hospital has brought in the healthcare services of Pakistan that it has evolved into a state-of-the-art health network. Subsequently, the network is now formally recognised as the Indus Hospital & Health Network (IHHN).

Over the years, the IHHN has benefited millions of patients and more than 400,000 patients continue to benefit per month. Impressively, over 10,500 patients have been treated for cancer and blood disorders. More than 84,186 individuals have been screened for depression and anxiety in the year 2019-2020. IHHN is expanding its flagship hospital in Karachi, a new hospital building fit with 1,350 beds, and the Indus University of Health Sciences is under construction and has completed 2 million square feet of constructed area. Once completed, it will become Pakistan's largest free-of-cost hospital and the university will train over 5,000 future human capital to prepare them for the health challenges of the 21st century. IHHN is also expanding to Lahore where a 600-bed tertiary care hospital is being built.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been the biggest global health crisis of our lifetime. Causing mass devastation and loss, the pandemic has posed a daunting challenge to all countries of the world. In Pakistan, IHHN has fought on the frontlines to help identify, treat and limit the spread of Covid-19. As a rapid response, IHHN repurposed its resources and set up a 60-bed Covid-19 unit and separate Emergency Area in Karachi. It also established a 175-bed unit in Muzaffargarh and integrated testing services in its public health services. As a result, IHHN has contributed to 40 per cent of testing in the province of Sindh and 15 per cent of total testing in Pakistan. Not ignoring the emotional aspect of the pandemic, IHHN's psychosocial team of mental health professionals has also been looking after staff and patient well-being.

During the first decade of its existence, IHHN created the Global Health Directorate (GHD) with the objective to improve public health while working at the community level. The Directorate, with the support of some national and international stakeholders and donors, is running multiple public health projects.

GHD's scope of service includes implementation at scale of public health programs and comprehensive primary care facilities across the country. Scaling-up innovative approaches, mobile health technology, and a strong network of community health workers, GHD's service delivery in the community and at the primary level is closely coordinated with local secondary and tertiary facilities. GHD successfully implemented interventions at hospital and community settings across Pakistan and has been able to impact over one million people. Currently working in some high disease-burdened districts of Pakistan, GHD is managing several public health programs including infectious diseases, maternal and neonatal child health, non-communicable diseases, global surgery, mental health, and the primary care programme.

Moreover, IHHN is an internationally-recognised non-profit organization. It is certified by the Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy (PCP) and has been the recipient of numerous international grants, including the Global Fund for Malaria and AIDS intervention. In the UAE, IHHN is registered with International Humanitarian City, UAE (License No. 150084). IHHN's UAE partner was established to support and create awareness about the imperative work, the network does in Pakistan and for its people. The UAE branch is an initiative by Pakistanis living in the UAE. The Pakistani community in UAE has shown immense support and has established a meaningful relationship with IHHN. In the 13 years of its inspirational journey, IHHN has worked tirelessly to realise the dream of health equity in Pakistan and continues to work toward this with the help of its' generous donors.

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