‘Health coverage will help alleviate poverty’

Official says Sehat Sahulat Programme will remove barriers to indoor health services

Our Correspondent December 30, 2021


The Sehat Sahulat Programme (SSP) is expected to contribute to poverty alleviation, in addition to eliminating financial barriers to indoor health services, said SSP Chief Executive Officer Muhammad Arshad.

He was speaking at a webinar on the ‘Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and Social Health Insurance in Pakistan’ webinar, organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) on Wednesday.

“Improved equity will also lead to social development, peace, cohesion, and stability, he added.

Arshad elaborated that the main aim of introducing the SSP was to reduce catastrophic health care expenditures.

He said that Rs650 billion were being spent every year on the health sector. Out of this, only Rs450 billion are available for other social activities.

Ministry of National Health Services UHC Coordinator Dr Muhammad Khalid, informed the participates that the initiative is part of government’s commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which carried a 2030 deadline. He added that through the initiative, the incumbent administration was targeting SDGs 3.8.1 and 3.8.2. He explained that UHC was a health service intervention delivery package, to be implemented through public health care system. The SSP was already a targeted program for the provision of indoor health care to registered vulnerable groups, he added.

“UHC is based on the principle that all individuals and communities have equitable access to their needed health care,” he said. He highlighted that all the provinces have developed costed health care packages according to their need and prioritisation. These packages will be implemented at the community, primary, secondary and tertiary health care level, he added. “At the moment there is a financial gap for full implementation of these prioritised interventions. The implementation of the UHC benefit package will be initiated through World Bank-funded National Health Support (NHS) Project, worth 490 million USD, across all provinces,” he added.

SDPI Executive Director Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri asserted that the initiation of the UHC and health card was a step in the right direction. He said, “UHC in a country of 220 million people was an appropriate yardstick of measuring success.” However, it was not only the public sector who could adequately watch over it, therefore, it should be pursued as a collective responsibility, he added.

“It is also important to understand that health determining factors outside the health system or health departments, such as environment, food security, food safety, nutrition, chemicals, and emergencies were also important variables to consider,” said Dr Suleri. “We need a multisectoral approach with close coordination.”

Aga Khan University Professor Dr Sameen Siddiqui emphasised, “Through the SSP, the government should focus on people living below the poverty line.”

Published in The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2021.


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