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Rs9bn Per Annum Be Allocated for Health Research in Pakistan

A minimum $30 million (Rs9 billion) should be allocated centrally every year for health research across Pakistan between various sponsoring and oversight organisations to support the research agenda, overseen by a proposed National Health Research Council (NHRC), a joint declaration by top health and educational bodies of the country said on Sunday.

Dubbed as ‘Islamabad Declaration for Health Research in Pakistan’, the declaration was endorsed by the National Institute of Health (NIH), Higher Education Commission (HEC), Pakistan Science Foundation and Pakistan Academy of Sciences, while it was also endorsed by officials and researchers from leading public and private medical and general universities of the country.

Chaired by the caretaker Federal Health Minister Dr Nadeem Jan, the Islamabad Declaration was presented at the concluding session of a two-day conference titled ‘National Health Research Conference’, which was organised by the NIH Islamabad in collaboration with the HEC, PAS and PSF and attended by researchers from public and private institutes, vice chancellors of the universities, academicians, scientists and experts from different cities of Pakistan and abroad.

Presented by renowned health scientist and researcher Prof. Dr Zulfiqar Bhutta, the Islamabad declaration recommended that funds meant for research must be allocated equitably and competitively and accounted for annually by the NHRC with an annual National Health Research profile (State of Health Research Pakistan) and project dashboard maintained by the National Institute for Health, Pakistan with regular sharing of information between the major organisations mentioned above.

The declaration further proposed appropriate investment in provinces for health research capacity development with creation of public private partnerships and networks of centres of excellence in research, inclusive of medical, nursing and related institutions as well as the pharmaceutical sector.

Appropriate mandatory courses in research methodology and ethics must be included in medical undergraduate and postgraduate training curricula by the Higher Education Commission, Pakistan Medical and Dental Council, Pakistan Nursing Council and College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan, it recommended.

It further said that the need for health research for sustainable national public health, wellbeing as well as long-term economic growth and development of Pakistan must be fully recognised and underscored.

The National Health Research priorities in Pakistan must be aligned with the nation’s Sustainable Development Goals for Health (SDG 3) and nutrition (SDG 2), and fundamentally positioned to address systemic inequities and emerging challenges of climate change and global health security, the declaration said.

The declaration called for reducing inequities in health research capacities between provinces and by gender through special capacity development initiatives, facilitating health research agenda through strategic regional and global collaborations/partnerships with global and regional centres of excellence and be facilitated through appropriate bilateral and multi-lateral mechanisms for support.

“Monitoring and evaluation of research capacity, workforce and productivity must be conducted on an annual basis through agreed upon and transparent internationally recognided metrics, and jointly overseen by the National Health Research Council and Pakistan Council for Science and Technology,” the declaration suggested.

Caretaker Health Minister Dr Nadeem Jan said despite the financial crunch being faced by the country, he would take up the matter for allocation of Rs9 billion annually for research in the country with the cabinet but deplored that proper utilisation and accountability of the funds was big concerns of the policymakers.

“Despite billions of dollars spent by the US and its allies in Afghanistan on healthcare, they don’t have even a world-class health facility and most of the patients come to Pakistan for treatment. Same is the situation of former FATA areas, where not a single healthcare facility exists for the treatment of people despite huge spending by the federal and provincial governments,” he deplored.

He informed the researchers and healthcare professionals that disease patterns in Pakistan changed during the last 15 years and now there was a need to realign the national health priorities, adding that they were trying to set directions for the coming government in the health sector.

“We will move from verticality to integration, from silos to collaboration, from donor-driven agendas to national-driven agendas, and from pocket-centric opportunities to poor-centric opportunities and interventions,” he said.

The caretaker health minister maintained that global health security agenda was top most priority for Pakistan, adding that despite huge sacrifices by the country, it was continuing efforts for the eradication of polio from its soil.

“Which country has seen sacrifices of over 100 healthcare providers and workers for the eradication of polio or any other disease? It is wrongly perceived that polio programme is a donor-driven programme, although Pakistan has allocated U$600 million for the polio eradication,” he added.

Source: The News