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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

UNICEF, AKU embark on National Nutrition Survey


By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

A country-wide survey to collect information on the nutritional status of women and children, food security and household water quality is about to begin under a joint collaboration between the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination, the Aga Khan University and UNICEF. 

For the first time, the 2018 National Nutrition Survey (NNS) will collect data at the district rather than provincial level, providing targeted insights about the areas that face the greatest nutrition challenges besides barriers to adequate food intake and nutrition-related health status, according to speakers at the NNS launch ceremony at the Aga Khan University on February 12. 

The NNS will also see researchers analyse the country’s progress in nutrition since 2011, the year of the previous survey which found that more than half of all households in Pakistan suffer from food insecurity, in other words are hungry or face the threat of hunger. 

The 2011 survey also found that 44 per cent of children are stunted, too short for their age, and noted that the indicators of mother and child nutrition had not improved in the decade leading up to 2011. The study will see information gathered from 115,500 households, with field teams going door-to-door in villages, towns and cities across the country. 

The data to be collected includes blood and urine samples which will highlight the presence of key minerals for growth and good health; height and weight measurements to detect development delays; and an assessment of the state of household drinking water quality and sanitation facilities which can cause illness and malnutrition. 

Field teams will also collect information on household income, gender empowerment, education levels, and breastfeeding practices which are known to have an impact on nutrition indicators. 

“Poor nutrition in the crucial early years of a child’s life triggers irreversible mental and physical defects that have a lifelong impact on a child’s productivity, immunity against disease and earning capacity as an adult,” Dr Atif Habib, assistant professor in the department of paediatrics and child health at AKU, remarked. 

“Malnutrition also has a vicious, multi-generational impact since malnourished mothers are more likely to have underweight children. This survey will analyse Pakistan’s progress on a variety of fronts that influence nutrition and will enable us to design targeted interventions to boost the health of our young women and children,” he added. 

UNICEF’s Field Office Chief, Sindh, Cristina Brugiolo noted that insights from the survey would help Pakistan develop evidence-based initiatives to achieve targets under the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals which call on countries to end all forms of malnutrition by 2030 and to address the causes of preventable deaths in newborns and children. 

“Good nutrition lays the foundation for healthy, thriving and productive communities and nations. The scale of the nutrition problem in the country necessitates the need for regular monitoring. Findings from the National Nutrition Survey will show provincial and federal governments where they can make the quickest and highest-impact gains. UNICEF is happy to share how such programmes can be scaled up,” she added. 

The fndings from the survey are also expected to shed light on the impact of the 2011 decision to devolve responsibility for health from federal to provincial governments. 

Dr Baseer Achakzai, director of nutrition at the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination, said that the 2018 survey would be the largest such survey in the country. 

He added the findings of the survey would help the government of Pakistan to assess how the country’s nutrition indicators have changed following the introduction of provincial nutrition support programmes and in light of other social safety net schemes such as the Benazir Income Support Programme and other province-level initiatives. 

The data collection phase of the survey is expected to take eight months with stakeholders gathering to assess the data at monthly intervals. 

The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics and the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources are also acting as technical partners on the National Nutrition Survey.

The other speakers at the event included Dr Salman Kirmani, chair of the department of paediatrics at AKU, Dr Sher Baz from the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination; Dr Iftikhar Mallah from the Sindh health department, and Dr Naveed Bhutto from the Sindh Nutrition Support Programme.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Canadian, Pakistani researchers collaborate on molecular research


By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

New research into the molecular structure and genetic make-up of tumours is enabling more targeted cancer treatment, said experts attending the 3rd Annual Surgical Meeting Surgical Oncology-Evidence and Practice at Aga Khan University.

Molecular analysis of brain tissue is revealing the distinctive ‘signature’ of tumours that are otherwise of a similar type and stage, according to speakers who noted that a partnership between Pakistani and Canadian researchers is resulting in the transfer of knowledge and skills stemming from this novel research. 

The faculty from Aga Khan University is currently working with researchers on the tumour boards of the Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto, Canada, to explore how these molecular insights can enhance the treatment of complicated cases of brain cancer. 

“Insights from molecular biology are helping oncologists select the most suitable course of cancer treatment and more accurately predict the response to targeted therapy. This will ensure optimal treatment for each tumour and a longer, better quality of life for each patient,” Dr Shahzad Shamim, an associate professor at AKU’s department of surgery, said. 

The experts from 14 countries around the world gathered at the two-day multidisciplinary conference to explore the latest developments in cancer surgery, diagnostic, pathology and treatment. 

The sessions at the conference also highlighted innovations in reconstructive surgery which were helping restore the function of organs affected by the spread of cancer. 

The speakers noted that techniques such as intra-operative monitoring enabled surgeons to stimulate parts of the spine to quickly and painlessly detect areas that can be reconstructed. This means that damaged areas of the spine, which were previously deemed too dangerous to operate on, can now be mended and rebuilt. 

The experts added that similar technological advances in orthopaedic surgery meant that high quality implants can be used to replace bones and joints damaged by the spread of cancer, thereby helping preserve essential body functions. Robot-assisted surgery was another prominent theme of the conference. 

While the experts noted that the use of robots in the operating theatre can enhance the precision of surgeries, they added that the process of learning how to work with technology was typically very demanding in terms of time and difficulty. 

“There are about 148,000 new cases of cancer in Pakistan every year. Bringing together experts from around the world promotes the sharing of advances across the field of oncology which will boost our chances of detecting the disease in early stages and deliver more effective treatment for cancer patients across the country,” Dr Masood Umer, an associate professor in AKU’s department or surgery and chair of the conference, remarked.

The conference’s objectives are in line with global efforts to achieve targets under goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals: ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. Target 3.4.1 of the goal calls for special efforts to reduce deaths caused by cancer by a third by 2030. 

The 3rd Annual Surgical Meeting was organized in collaboration with the European Society of Surgical Oncology, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and the International Journal of Surgery. 

The conference’s inaugural session was preceded by a day of 25 workshops and symposiums at the University’s Centre for Innovation in Medical Education. 

Over 300 participants were in attendance over the two-day event which also saw the launch of a book consisting of 15 unique stories of Pakistani cancer survivors, families and physicians who have battled the disease.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Dr Seemin Jamali presented book Trauma Care


By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Dr Seemin Jamali, Executive Director, Jinnah Post Graduate Medical Centre (JPMC), Karachi, was presented a copy of the book ‘Trauma Care’ by its author Dr Muhammad Saeed Minhas, Associate Professor of Trauma and Orthopedics Surgery at JPMC.

Appointed Executive Director of the JPMC last April, Dr Seemin Jamali, has been one of the most popular physicians, having headed the emergency department with distinction for several years. Her caring attitude towards the patients in particular has been particularly admired. 

Dr Saeed Minhas is Fellow of College of Physicians and Surgeons of Pakistan (CPSP) in Orthopaedic Surgery, having done his basic training in Accident & emergency, Chest surgery, General surgery, trauma and Orthopedics. 

Besides his teaching commitments to under graduates and post graduates in Orthopaedic surgery he is actively involved in training Primary trauma care program not only in Pakistan but in many counties of the world. 

He is giving trauma training to doctors, nurses, paramedics, motorway officials and combating soldiers. He is also leading Volunteers training program in trauma and disaster for medical students. 

He has to his credit number of original research articles published in medical journals. He is also the author of Pre hospital primary trauma care manual in English and Urdu for first responders. He has also compiled a manual of Trauma, Accident & Emergency for medical students and young doctors.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Al Mustafa Welfare Society plans to establish university


By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

After having completed a number of health and education projects with an investment of billions of rupees, the Al Mustafa Welfare Society, has started spadework on yet another grand project of establishing a university in Karachi.

This was disclosed by Chairman of the society, Haji Mohammed Hanif Tayyab, a former Federal Minister and President of Nizam-e-Mustafa party during a chat at the venue of a free medical camp in Gulshan-e-Iqbal, organized by Al-Mustafa Welfare Society as part of its ongoing humanitarian activities in the fields of health and education. 

Haji Hanif Tayyab, the soul behind various multi-billion health and education projects being run under Al Mustafa Welfare Society, was highly appreciative of Jumbo Karachi Guide when presented to him during the medical camp at the Pakistan Society for Scientists and Scientific Professions. 

The camp was visited by a large number of people from different walks of life which included former parliamentarians Usman Noori and Begum Qamarunnisa besides international cricketer Muhammad Sami. 

The Al Mustafa Welfare Society is registered as a non-governmental organization and is being run by a team of highly motivated intellectuals, social workers comprising of doctors, engineers, lawyers, business executives and representatives of various fields of life.

Haji Hanif Tayyab pointed out that the society has been serving thousands of poor and needy persons daily without discrimination of cast, creed and religion through its medical centers, clinics, schools, mosques Islamic centres, vocational training and skill development centers. 

He particularly referred to the establishment of a 100-bed Al Mustafa Medical Centre in Gulshan-e-Iqbal adding that it has been expanded to six floors to cater to the ever growing medical needs of needy people. 

He also informed Al Mustafa is also running medical centers in Shah Faisal Colony, Qasba More, Pak Kausar Colony and many other places in Karachi and many parts of the country besides Muzaffarabad in Azad Kashmir. 

He specially mentioned about Al Mustafa's "Kafalat Program" through which suffering and helpless people were being served since 1983.

The objective of Kafalat program is to help the families who do not have their guardian with them or they face any severe problem. 

After all the necessary assessment, the society provide them monthly food support, help them educate their children and also provide marriage assistance for girls of needy families. 

As regards the university, he informed that land for the purpose has been acquired and now preliminary work was being done to bring the project on ground. 

However, to a question, he said it is yet to be decided whether it will be an engineering or medical or a general university. 

He said that the Al Mustafa Society has started working on the idea on establishing a university after it successfully launched big educational projects for both boys and girls in localities like Korangi.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Prof Murad Khan elected IASP’s first Asian President


By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Professor Murad Moosa Khan has been elected as the president of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), the first Asian as well as the first Pakistani in the 60-year history of the Association.

Murad Khan, professor of psychiatry at the Aga Khan University, was selected as head of the Association at the 29th IASP World Congress. 

“To me, this is a challenge as well as an opportunity to work with the global community, IASP professionals and volunteers, to prevent suicidal behaviour in our societies,” he said. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 800,000 people die due to suicide every year in the world and for 15-29 year olds, it is the second leading cause of death globally. Worse, for every suicide, there are many more people who attempt a suicide. 

Although no official data is available for Pakistan, it is estimated that between 130,000-300,000 people attempt suicide and 13,000-15,000 people take their lives every year. “Most suicides are preventable,” Prof Murad Khan stated. 

“In countries like Pakistan, social factors such as unemployment, lack of access to health, education, housing, transport, justice, and poor law and order create a lot of stress. Severe stress can lead to depression and other mental health illnesses that can lead the individual to think about committing suicide,” he added. 

He aims to work with key stakeholders and advise the government to invest in the mental health sector and come up with a suicide prevention strategy. 

“Pakistan needs a viable national mental health strategy, involving different stakeholders including the government, public and mental health professionals and NGOs,” he reckoned. 

“Training in the early recognition and management of common mental disorders has to be imparted to family doctors, lady health workers and community people. They should be able to discuss symptoms with their patients, help them deal with stigmas attached to mental health and teach them coping skills. Parallel to this it is crucial that affordable and accessible mental health services should be developed as well. People should know where they have to go if they suffer from depression or any mental health problems,” he continued. 

“Around 90 per cent of people who take their lives suffer from some sort of mental health illness at the time of suicide, of which clinical depression is the most common condition,” he concluded.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Modern medicine saving lives in Pakistan


By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Shahmeer Khan was born with Tetralogy of Fallot, a rare and complex congenital heart defect in which he had a combination of four heart defects. A congenital heart defect, it is often called the blue baby syndrome because it causes the skin to turn bluish in color as a result of deoxygenated blood in the baby’s system. Congenital heart disease (CHD) is one of the most common developmental defects, occurring in one per cent of the population world-wide.

All babies who have Tetralogy of Fallot need corrective surgery. Without treatment, the child might not grow and develop properly. Untreated cases usually develop severe complications over time, which might result in death or disability by early adulthood. 

Shahmeer is among the growing ranks of children born with CHD, who are surviving, thanks to life-saving pediatric cardiology programmes such as the one at the Aga Khan University (AKU). 

“Life is a gift and due to some very specially trained people and people who take what they do seriously. Thanks to advances in treatment and care at AKUH, by the grace of the almighty, my child is still here and doing very well,” Shahmeer's mother said. 

Shahmeer was celebrating the success of his life-saving open heart surgery at AKUH with sponsors of the University’s Mending Kids’ Hearts campaign. Supporters of the campaign came together over a game of golf and to learn about the impact of their gift. 

The three-year effort to support CHD patients has raised over Rs 247 million from community partners, local corporations, private individuals and support from AKUH’s income allocated for welfare to offer enhanced services to the children in Pakistan. 

Each year, the congenital cardiac programme team at AKUH performs more than 400 paediatric cardiac procedures, including for the many miracle children like Shahmeer whose families could not afford the cost of these complex procedures. 

“Seeing the level of support Aga Khan University Hospital provided to us in our scariest and darkest hours makes me want to make a difference in the lives of other families facing the tough road,” Shahmeer's father said. 

As a leader in paediatric healthcare, AKUH remains passionately dedicated to its core purpose, providing access to healthcare for every child. 

"Increasing access to pediatric cardiac care is not an impossible goal. It is an achievable goal. AKUH remains committed to the well-being of our children," Hans Kedzierski, CEO, AKUH, remarked. 

Since the turn of the millennium, child deaths in Pakistan have been declining thanks to improved public health and poverty reduction efforts. More children need to be saved by 2030, the year that the UN Sustainable Development Goals call for the world to end preventable child deaths. 

“This target will not be met without addressing congenital heart disease, and we need to assist CHD patients who cannot afford this care” Dr Muneer Amanullah, an associate professor of cardiothoracic surgery, added.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Veteran Aligarhian passes away

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Muneer Muhammad Khan, Member, Executive Committee, Aligarh Muslim University Old Boys Association (AMUOBA) who passed away on January 13 was laid to rest at the DHA Graveyard in Karachi the following day. 

His Namaz-e-Janaza was offered at Mubarak Masjid in DHA Phase V Extension after Asr prayers which was attended by a large number of fellow Aligarhians, friends and relatives. 

Meanwhile in a condolence message, Engr Anwar Ali, Vice President, AMUOBA, has expressed his profound grief and sorrow over the death of Muneer Mohammed Khan and prayed that may Allah SWT rest the departed soul in eternal peace and grant fortitude to bereaved family to bear this loss.

Hajj balloting at AIT


By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Aligarh Institute of Technology (AIT) has, for the first time, introduced Hajj ballot scheme for its employees and staff, Engr Anwer Ali, Convenor AIT, announced.

According to him, commencing from this year, the AIT will send two persons to hold land to perform the sacred ritual of Hajj at AIT expenses. 

He disclosed that two lucky employees were selected through ballot held at the AIT Auditorium on January 10. 

Engr Anwer Ali said that in order to facilitate the female employees, if they emerged successful in the ballot, the AIT was also going bear the expenses of her spouse/mehram. 

Meanwhile the staff of AIT has welcomed and praised the management for introducing Haj Balloting scheme, which is set to become a regular annual feature. 

They thanked Engr Anwer Ali, Convener AIT, for taking this noble step and expressed the hope that this practice will continue in future as well.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

AKU alumni give back through landmark donation


By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
 (Pakistan News & Features Services)

Continuing their history of philanthropy to the University, alumni of the Class of 1992 have added to their gift to support physicians from underserved communities across Pakistan.

The Alumni and faculty members gathered to celebrate a landmark gift to the Aga Khan University (AKU) where the MBBS Class of 1992 added another gift of $250,000 to the endowment fund previously established in 2012 to celebrate their 20th graduation anniversary. 

The MBBS Class of 1992 Endowment Fund was established to support the Medical College in perpetuity and in its commitment to making continuing medical education accessible to more physicians who work in underserved communities across Pakistan and who come to AKU for workshops, research symposiums, CME lectures and other research related activities specific to Postgraduate Medical Education (PGME) students training at AKU. 

This latest gift is the most recent example of AKU Alumni’s generosity toward their alma mater. A career in medicine and caring for vulnerable patient populations is itself a way of endowing society, but the alumni clearly value the concept of paying it forward. 

Proceeds from the fund will continue to enable the University to open its doors to many more students from other medical institutions across Pakistan to attend world class conferences and workshops at AKU, to more closely connect them, through the curriculum, with advances in medicine so as to better care for the communities where they come from. 

It will also support education of undergraduate students from some of Pakistan’s most underserved communities requiring financial assistance to access world-class medical education.


“AKU has opened up new worlds for me and my classmates. It has offered me new perspectives, which allowed me to fulfill my dreams. Looking back over many years of practice, we know that medical education is our most valuable possession. It is a privilege every day to practice medicine as it helps to ground us and humble us. It has been a lifetime of learning, growth and service,” Dr Faiz Bohra, who along with Dr Mumtaz Khan signed the agreement on behalf of their class, remarked. 

They acknowledged the efforts of Dr Muneer Abidi and Dr Obeid Ilahi in championing this gift. Graduates of MBBS 1992 from within and outside Pakistan, attended the ceremony, along with the Faculty of Health Sciences staff and learnt first-hand the impact that the MBBS Class of 1992 Endowment has already created. 

“Our education at AKU prepared us well for the challenges of medicine. As students, we focused on didactic and clinical work, the tasks of becoming a doctor. However, we learned many things we were not aware of excellence, compassion, resilience, passion, teamwork, commitment and intellectual curiosity that have made all the difference in our success. We attribute this to the strong mentors at AKU, many of them women setting high standards for patient care and education, yet able to show the joy in their work and the human aspects of medicine” Dr Khan added. 

“Our alumni believe giving back is their responsibility. We sincerely hope that this gesture will inspire other alumni to personally contribute to the advancement of medical education,” Dr Farhat Abbas, Dean of the Medical College, observed. 

AKU alumni are part of a supportive, cohesive community that spans the globe and endures for a lifetime. From lifelong relationships to memories of life on the Stadium Road Campus, there are innumerable reasons alumni choose to support their alma mater. 

Every year, more alumni give back in celebration of reunions, as volunteers, or through annual gifts, and they are not shy about sharing why. AKU is a world-renowned institution that contributes a significant amount to the advancement of society, with a particular focus on serving disadvantaged, underserved, and indigent populations. 

Graduates from AKU work in numerous countries around the world, which allows the University’s reach to be felt on a global scale. AKU alumni play a major role in both the domestic and international economies. By educating the next generation of highly-educated, global citizens, the University is shaping a skilled workforce that will transform and lead an emerging global economy.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Policy planners receive immunization financing training


By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Immunization programme managers, health policy planners and private sector officials from Pakistan and Afghanistan attended a four-day skill-building workshop at Aga Khan University on the planning of financially sustainable national vaccination programmes. 

Pakistan and Afghanistan rely on the financial support of the Global Alliance for Vaccines (GAVI) for their nationwide routine immunization programmes. 

From 2020, Pakistan will need to take on greater responsibility for financing the provision of these life-saving vaccines as GAVI phases of support in order to focus on the needs of the world’s poorest countries. 

Pakistan is currently in the preparatory transition phase and this shift requires the country’s health planners to develop the advanced skills needed to move towards self-sufficiency. 

“We’ve applied economic concepts and used real-life case studies from around the world to share practical lessons on how to plan a sustainable response to forthcoming financing challenges. Interestingly, we have kept a mix of public and private sector trainees so that we can develop a network of knowledgeable resource people who can collectively respond through pooling expertise and blended financing,” Dr Shehla Zaidi, regional trainer and an associate professor in Community Health Sciences and the Department of Women and Child Health at AKU, remarked. 

The Sindh Health Secretary Fazlullah Pechuho said: “Donor commitment for vaccines is declining and we have to make arrangements to fill this gap when the GAVI and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation support disappears. There should be arrangements for the local production of vaccines as this will help improve the financial sustainability of programmes.” 

The workshop was the first of three such capacity building workshops funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on vaccine economics and financing. 

During the workshop faculty from the Aga Khan University, Johns Hopkins University and senior figures from the World Health Organization (WHO), provided training sessions to immunization sector stakeholders. 

Speaking about the goals of the workshop, WHO’s Representative to Pakistan Dr Mohammad Assai said: “Vaccines save over 2 million lives a year and represent one of the most cost-effective ways to protect children and adults from disease. By addressing critical gaps in the financial planning and management of immunization programmes, these workshops will ensure that vital health programmes can manage forthcoming challenges. They will also make sure that decisions to introduce new vaccines are based on sound evidence.” 

The workshop ended with a panel discussion featuring a mix of public and private sector representatives from Pakistan and Afghanistan, moderated by literary critic and former public health specialist Asif Farrukhi, and chaired by Sindh Health Secretary Fazlullah Pechuho. 

The sessions under the workshop represent the university’s efforts to support Goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals which call for countries around the world to ensure the availability of safe, effective, quality and affordable vaccinations for all.