“From Evidence to Impact in Public Health: A Triumph of Community-Based Education and Research”
Karachi: The Aga Khan University organized a symposium titled “From Evidence to Impact in Public Health.” This event showcased the profound influence of the University’s Community Health Sciences department through its educational programs, training initiatives, and research endeavors. These undertakings have a direct bearing on public policy, enhancing the quality of life and health outcomes in the communities they serve.
The educational programs offered by the Community Health Sciences department are meticulously designed to cultivate the next generation of public health leaders, including community health workers and junior researchers who play an integral role in our healthcare system. Moreover, the department’s research endeavors are aimed at exploring pertinent issues, developing innovative solutions, and evaluating interventions, such as the reduction of maternal mortality.
Dr. Sameen Siddiqui, Chair of the Department of Community Health Sciences at AKU, underscored the crucial link between research and policy, emphasizing how valuable evidence obtained from fieldwork informs public health policy. He specifically highlighted the proactive role that AKU’s Community Health Sciences department plays in engaging with policymakers, conducting systems analysis, and undertaking research initiatives. These efforts have made significant contributions to the development of health policies aimed at supporting primary healthcare, strengthening healthcare systems, and achieving universal health coverage.
The department has made notable contributions in the field of healthcare. One such contribution was its involvement in the global Asthana Declaration on Primary Health Care in 2018. This declaration has had a significant impact on the renewed approach to Primary Healthcare (PHC). The department’s experiences at the national level have also been fruitful, particularly in the development of an evidence-informed Essential Health Package of Services. This initiative has produced tangible outcomes, highlighting the department’s effectiveness.
Furthermore, the department conducted a comprehensive review of the Sehat Card program in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, which is another noteworthy accomplishment. The Sehat Card program aims to provide health insurance coverage to the residents of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, ensuring their access to quality healthcare services. The department’s review of this program reflects its commitment to evaluating the effectiveness of healthcare initiatives and making informed decisions based on the findings.
Overall, the department has played a crucial role in shaping the global and national healthcare landscape. Its involvement in the Asthana Declaration has influenced the approach to Primary Healthcare on a global scale. At the national level, the department’s development of evidence-informed healthcare services and review of the Sehat Card program have further demonstrated its dedication to improving healthcare outcomes. These achievements highlight the department’s commitment to advancing healthcare policies and services for the benefit of the population.
The work carried out in the field of child health has been exceptionally advantageous. For instance, the department has conducted tests using minimally invasive tissue sampling techniques, leading to the identification of fetal, maternal, and placental factors contributing to stillbirths and preterm births. Dr. Sarah Saleem, a professor at the Department of Community Health Sciences, has collaborated with esteemed institutions such as Columbia University and Research Triangle Institute North Carolina, which has positively impacted the Thatta community. This collaboration has resulted in the establishment of a Maternal and Newborn Health Registry and the effective use of high-quality data to develop localized solutions.
Dr. Zafar Fatmi’s research is dedicated to addressing specific concerns within local communities, encompassing diverse areas such as household energy and health, air quality, the eco-revitalization of the river Ravi, and the issue of arsenic contamination in the Indus River. Through his work, he has uncovered the intrinsic connection between these phenomena and human well-being. Furthermore, Professor Shehla Zaidi, an esteemed expert in Health Policy & Systems at AKU-CHS, has focused on the integration of Pakistan’s private health sector to foster Universal Health Coverage (UHC). She has accumulated extensive knowledge through research-driven initiatives, including implementation pilots, assessment studies on public-private partnerships, and formative endeavors exploring the preferences and collaborative approaches of private providers with the government. Her endeavors are aligned with the national objectives of the Sustainable Development Goal, ensuring good health and well-being for all.
The symposium witnessed the participation of experts from various departments within AKU, as well as renowned national and international guests. Distinguished individuals such as Mr. Zafar Mirza, Former Federal Health Minister, Govt. of Pakistan; Dr. Awad Mataria, Director Universal Healthcare (UHC)/Health Systems Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean EMRO, WHO; Dr. Paul Erwin, Dean of the School of Public Health (SPH), University of Alabama at Birmingham; and Dr. Zainab Samad, Chair of Medicine, AKU, contributed to the panels and presentations.
While participating in a panel conversation focused on enhancing public health, Dr. Mataria recognized the importance of partnering with esteemed organizations such as AKU to effectively connect the realms of academia and policy formation.
The distinguished Chief Guest at the event was none other than Dr. Azra Pechuho, the highly respected Minister for Health in Sindh. AKU maintains close working relationships with various government bodies at the local, provincial, and federal levels, fostering collaborative efforts that aim to improve the accessibility and quality of healthcare systems. Dr. Pechuho expressed her gratitude for the partnership between AKU and the government, emphasizing the trust that exists between the two entities. She further expressed a strong commitment to nurturing even stronger collaborations in preventive healthcare, with specific focus on areas such as adolescent girls’ health, nutrition, maternal health, family planning, telehealth, and women’s skill development.