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ISLAMABAD: Speakers at a webinar, while appreciating the government’s efforts to provide healthcare services to masses said that the Sehat Sahulat Programme will not only contribute to poverty alleviation besides improving access to indoor health services and reduction of financial barriers to access health service.

While speaking at the webinar titled, “Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and Social Health Insurance in Pakistan,” organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), they further said that the improved equity would lead to social development, peace, cohesion, and stability.

Muhammad Arshad, chief executive officer (CEO), Sehat Sahulat Program contributing as a panelist elaborated further that the main aim of introducing this project was to reduce catastrophic healthcare expenditure.

He said that an estimated Rs650 billion per annum are being spent on the health sector, out of which, 450 billion rupees are available for other social activities, he added.

The UHC Coordinator at the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination, Dr Muhammad Khalid, informed the participates that the UHC is part of the government’s commitment towards Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 2030 and relevant SDGs are 3.8.1and 3.8.2.

He explained the difference between Universal Health Coverage, which is health service intervention delivery package and to be implemented through public health care system, while Sehat Sahulat program is already targeted program for provision of indoor healthcare.

These services are being offered to registered vulnerable groups, the UHC is based on the principle that all individuals and communities have equitable access to their needed healthcare. He highlighted that all the provinces have developed health care packages according to their need and prioritization.

These packages will be implemented at community, primary, secondary, and tertiary healthcare levels, at the moment there is a financial gap for full implementation of these prioritized interventions.

The implementation of the UHC benefit package would be initiated through the World Bank-funded National Health Support Project worth 490 million USD, across all provinces, he added.

Dr Abid Qayyum Suleri, executive director, SDPI, while speaking on the occasion asserted that the UHC and the health card is a step in the right direction, saying that the UHC in a country of 220 million population is a yardstick of measuring success.

However, it is not only public sector who can take care of and thus, it should be pursued as a collective responsibility. “It is also important to understand that health determining factors outside health system or health department such as environment, food security, food safety, nutrition, chemicals, and emergencies are very important to consider,” Dr Suleri said, and added that we need multi-sectoral approach with close coordination.

Dr Sameen Siddiqi, professor Aga Khan University, emphasized that Sehat Sahulat Programme the government should focus on people living below the poverty line. We need third-party independent evaluation to improve the service being provided under the initiative, while smooth implementation should play a critical role in the success of the programme.

Dr Razia Safdar of the SDPI, while moderating the session highlighted that Pakistan is a signatory of the SDG 2030 agenda. Therefore, the universal health coverage is an important initiative as it is ensuring that people have access to the healthcare they need, without facing financial hardship.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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