The Curve

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.

By Azhar Ali | July 2020

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.

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One thought on “Public Health for All

  • July 2, 2020 at 10:44 pm

    Excellent article covers various aspects along with references and real time examples – combination of these no doubt fascinates the readers.
    1st part is related to lockdown/flattening the curve and country’s position.
    We exemplify Chinese model but there is no freedom of the press in China and whenever any news originates from China, it’s closely monitored by the state. As soon as the epidemic spread to Europe, these countries also enforced lockdown, following the Chinese model. But Sweden is the only country in Europe that didn’t enforce lockdown from the day one. If we were to compare Sweden and other European countries, we could observe that the mortality rate is similar among them. Doesn’t this prove that the lockdown wasn’t an effective enough tool to deal with the pandemic?
    2nd part “Alma-Ata Declaration” and Public Health Education. Not education but public health education would surely reap rational outcomes because it won’t that difficult for concerned authorities to squander many resources from the scratch if be unprecedented menace hits the world….
    So just like environment, basic public health topic in curricula is the need of the hour…
    Last para is the essence of whole article …… Thanks……..