Universal Health coverage to contribute to poverty alleviation: CEO

ISLAMABADThe Sehat Sahulat Program is expected to contribute to poverty alleviation besides improving access to indoor health services and reduction of financial barriers to access health services.

Moreover, improved equity would lead to social development, peace, cohesion, and stability.

Muhammad Arshad, Chief Executive Officer, Sehat Sahulat Program was speaking as a panelist at the webinar ‘Universal Health Coverage & Social Health Insurance in Pakistan,’ organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).

Mr Arshad elaborated further that the main aim of introducing the Sehat Sahulat Program was to reduce’ catastrophic health care expenditure. Currently, 650 billion rupees per annum are being spent every year on the health sector out of which 450 billion rupees are available for other social activities, he added.

 Universal Health Coverage Coordinator at the Ministry of National Health Services Regulation and Coordination, Dr. Muhammad Khalid, informed the participates that the Universal Health Coverage is part of government commitment towards 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, Universal Health Coverage 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 costed health care packages according to their need and prioritization. These packages will be implemented at the community, primary, secondary, and tertiary healthcare level, 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 World Bank-funded National Health Support Project worth 490 million USD, across all provinces, he added.

Dr. Abid Qaiyum Suleri, Executive Director, SDPI, asserted that the initiation of Universal Health Coverage and Health card is a step in the right direction. He said that the Universal Health Program in a country of 220 million population is a yardstick of measuring success.

However, it is not only the public sector that 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 the Health system or health departments such as environment, food security, food safety, nutrition, chemicals, and emergencies is very important to consider,” Dr. Suleri said and added that we need a multisectoral 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 program.

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

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