Public Health for All
Pakistan needs to take the Alma-Ata Declaration of 1978
more seriously. There is a need to promote healthy habits
among the people through a sustained campaign.
The Covid-19 epidemic took the world off guard and Pakistan was no exception. The death rate from the virus varied from country to country and was initially linked to climate, age of patients, etc. However, at later stages, many myths about the virus changed and made the coronavirus disease even more unpredictable.
The main concern from the very beginning was to flatten the curve i.e. to slow down the spread so that existing health facilities could handle the influx of patients. One option worked in some countries while another in other countries. A massive lockdown worked well in China mainly due to its authoritarian regime and a higher level of compliance to instructions by the public. In Europe, the curve was controllable but it caused heavy losses. Many countries did not fit the best practices such as the USA, Brazil and Pakistan. These countries have large populations and quite non-authoritarian government regimes when it comes to the masses. Though the literacy rates differ in these countries, it has been observed that people generally resent lockdowns and do not obey strict public health rules. The attitude has posed a greater threat to Pakistan which is not as resourceful as other nations.
Pakistan’s health system has not been in a good condition for decades. The huge population growth has placed an immense burden on resources. Private health services providers have mushroomed everywhere. The common man gets some kind of (mis)treatment even from mediocre doctors. As Covid-19 has expanded, every country has needed to re-think its health policy. Even then, few Pakistanis can be convinced to wash their hands or use water safely.
It was in September 1978 when the world had a chance to make things better for the developing countries. In Alma-Ata (a city in Kazakhstan, now known as Almaty), the WHO Annual Conference concluded with a declaration commonly known as the “Alma-Ata Declaration”. This was the result of at least 6 to 7 decades of work done by legendary public health practitioners like Jim Grant, John Gordon and Carl Taylor.