In Pakistan, healthcare system can’t cater to even a third of heart patients

Experts at NICVD's 'Cardio Prevention 2019' conference call for preventive measures

​ Our Correspondent September 23, 2019

KARACHI: Heart specialists have expressed concern that the current healthcare system in the country can barely manage to provide medical facilities to even a third of the patients. Around 50 heart patients die every hour in Pakistan, according to experts, who were speaking in different sessions of a conference at the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD) held on Saturday in honour of World Heart Day.

Speakers at the conference, titled 'Cardio Prevention 2019', organised by the NICVD cardiology department in collaboration with a pharmaceutical company, pointed out that heart diseases among the youth have increased at an alarming rate. The contributing factors include lack of exercise, obesity and high blood pressure in more than 50 per cent of the country's population, and diabetes in more than 26 per cent of the population.

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They were of the view that the government and the private sector should focus more on the prevention of heart diseases rather than their treatment. Cigarette smoking was cited as one area where such measures could be taken. According to them, cigarettes and other tobacco products are available in Pakistan at cheaper rates than in the rest of the world. It remains the biggest factor behind deaths caused by heart attacks, various types of cancers and lung diseases in the country.

"Though our hospital is the largest facility for heart diseases in Pakistan, I have no qualms in saying that heart specialists in the country have failed in the prevention of heart diseases," said NICVD Executive Director Prof Nadeem Qamar. "Our healthcare system can hardly provide treatment to even a third of the patients given the increasing number of heart patients," he added.

Prof Qamar called upon heart specialists, civil society, government and pharmaceutical companies to work together towards reducing the number of patients suffering from cardiac diseases. He added that NICVD has initiated one such programme and under it, other campaigns will be launched across the country. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between NICVD and Getz Pharma Pvt Ltd to launch campaigns for the prevention of heart diseases in the country.

Heart specialist and former vice-chancellor of Khyber Medical University, Peshawar, Prof Muhammad Hafizullah said that the rate at which heart disease cases are increasing, could be reduced by 30 per cent by controlling all sorts of tobacco consumption.

NICVD Preventive Cardiology Programme head Prof Khawar Abbas Kazmi said that preventive cardiology units should be established in every major hospital of the country which would create awareness for the prevention of cardiovascular and other heart diseases. "In a country where most patients can't afford to buy medication to last a month after suffering from a heart attack, attention needs to be diverted towards the prevention of the disease."

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Chest specialist at Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH), Prof Javed Khan, demanded the ban of all tobacco products while heart specialist, Dr Fawad Farooq, and physical rehabilitation expert, Prof Nabila Soomro, stressed on the importance of exercise and a healthy lifestyle to avoid obesity.

Other speakers at the conference included Tabba Heart Institute Medical Director Dr Bashir Hanif, Dr Fatah Ali Tipu Sultan of AKUH, Prof Abdul Samad, Nutritionist Faiza Khan, town planner Farhan Anwar, Prof Khalida Soomro and Getz Pharma Chairperson Khalid Mehmood.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 23rd, 2019.


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