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Monday, May 30, 2016

Physicians appeal for tobacco control measures

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The renowned physicians working in major hospitals of Pakistan have sent a letter to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, raising serious concerns on the growing tobacco epidemic in the country. 

“Cigarette smoking kills more than 100,000 people every year in the country. This death toll is far greater in number than total deaths taking place as a result of suicidal bombings, traffic accidents and crime related killings,” Prof Javaid Khan, Chair. National Alliance for Tobacco Control and Professor of Medicine at the Aga Khan University (AKU), Karachi, submitted in the petition. 

“We, the doctors, see the victims of tobacco every day in their clinical practice and are very concerned on the growing mortality and morbidity due to tobacco use in the country,” he remarked. 

Prof Javaid Khan warned that failure to control tobacco use in the country would be a health and economic disaster for the country. “Tobacco use increases the risk of heart attacks, hypertension, stroke, various lung diseases and twenty different types of cancers,” he explained. 

Elaborating on the impact of tobacco on Pakistan's economy he said that Pakistanis spent over Rs. 260 billion on over 64 billion cigarettes in the year 2015 alone. 

“Equal if not more amount was spent on consuming smokeless tobacco in the form of paan, naswar and gutka. Huge sum of Pakistan's foreign exchange is spent in importing medicines for treating diseases caused by tobacco. Tobacco control measures would help in improving the country's economy,” he reckoned. 

The petition was signed by well-known physicians belonging to leading hospitals of Pakistan including Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH), Dow University of Health Sciences, Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, Liaquat National Hospital, Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center, Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital, Sheikh Zayed Hospital Lahore and Rahim Yar Khan, Gulab Devi Chest Hospital Lahore, King Edward Medical College, Lady Reading Hospital Peshawar and Fauji Foundation Hospital Rawalpindi.

The petition demanded that the ‘Prohibition of Smoking and Protection of non-smoker's Health Ordinance of 2002’ should be strictly enforced in order to control tobacco epidemic in the country. 

The doctors urged that all public places and public transport should be made completely smoke free in order to protect the health of non-smokers. 

The petition also advised the government to increase the taxation on cigarette in the forthcoming budget as at present cigarette prices in the country are lowest in the region.

They claimed that according to World Bank research increasing the tax by 10 percent, tobacco consumption in the country can be reduced by 11 percent. 

The doctors also raised their concern that despite of law which prohibited the sale of tobacco products to Under-18 age group no shopkeeper has ever been punished in Pakistan for selling cigarettes to minor. 

The letter said that the strong pictorial health warnings on tobacco products are a proven strategy to reduce its demand. The petition demanded of the government to increase the size of pictorial health warning on cigarette pack to 85% without any further delay. 

The doctors regretted that in spite of the fact that tobacco is responsible for almost 50% of all cancer cases in the country, yet smoking is still being advertised in the country at the point of sale. Also, it is portrayed through TV drama serials as a pleasurable, cool, glamorous and an adventurous act. 

The petition demanded a comprehensive ban on all forms of tobacco advertising and sponsorship in the country. The physicians also appealed that all universities and colleges must be made smoking-free zones in order to discourage youth from taking up this addiction, suggesting that there should be no tobacco vendors/shops allowed within walking distance of schools, colleges or universities.

Administrator Karachi East lauds SSUET heatstroke treatment centre


By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Administrator Karachi District East, Rehmatullah Shaikh, visited the Heat Stroke Treatment Centre set up by the Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology (SSUET), Karachi, at its campus and lauded the university’s initiative. 

At the centre he was received by the SSUET Registrar, Syed Sarfraz Ali, who took him around and informed that it was established to take care of the university students in case of any heat stroke incident during heightened temperatures. 

He shared with the Administrator that, on the directives of Chancellor Jawaid Anwar, the centre besides taking care of the university students, it will also cater to the needs of any heat stroke victim from outside the campus.

Administrator Rehmatullah Shaikh inquired about the condition of a victim and said that it was appreciative that the university has taken such an initiative. 

He said although the temperature, at present was on the lower side, yet the centre will remain functional until the end of the Holy month of Ramazan and as the weather conditions started changing. 

The SSUET Director Sports, Mubbashir Mukhtar, said that the university has established the camp as one of its social responsibility. 

The SSUET had taken a lead over other universities with the establishment of a Heat Stroke Treatment Centre which was inaugurated by the SSUET Chancellor, Jawaid Anwar, on May 19.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Chancellor highlights SSUET glories


By Abdul Qadir Qureshi 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Chancellor of the Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology (SSUET), Karachi, Jawaid Anwar, has remarked that no country can ever develop until it is free of corruption with discipline having been infused in every sector of the society.

“A disciplined society can only be guaranteed when sectors like education and sports are freed from corruption and a heavy dose of discipline injected,” he said while talking to a group of journalists at his office. 

“We at the SSUET have fully focused to achieve the cherished objectives by fully concentrating on improving the standard of education with greater focus on promoting disciplined sports,” he observed. 

Chancellor Jawaid Anwar said that there’s a big gap between certified work force like doctors, engineers, technologists and scientists, and non-certified work force like plumbers, diploma holders and similar other professions and this gap needed to be bridged to ensure fast economic progress. 

He said that in order to achieve this objective, emphasis was being laid on introducing courses at Aligarh Institute of Technology (AIT), an offshoot of the Aligarh Muslim University Old Boys Association (AMUOBA) so as to promote creative abilities of its students to help them contribute towards national economic progress. 

He underlined the importance of sports and said that at the SSUET, the sports department has been reorganized with the induction of sport professionals like Mubbashir Mukhtar as its Director. 

Pointing out that the SSUET is performing well in sports, he said the objective is not to win awards alone but infuse a sportsman spirit among students to take wins as a pride and defeats as a lesson with positive attitudes which in turn will infuse discipline in them. 

He described corruption as a ground reality and there was a need to transform the mindset against this evil by keeping the vision of great reformer and educationist Sir Syed Ahmed Khan in view. 

Jawaid Anwar told a questioner that their sports policy was very simple, having been based on promoting the students’ physical and mental growth and keeping them engaged in constructive and positive activities. 

He said that the university is taking stock of a policy for sports-based admissions while the university has allocated a big chunk of fund for award of scholarships to merited students and particularly those who face financial constraints. 

“Our policy is that no student is allowed to give up education just because of financial problem," he stressed.

The Chancellor said that in order to ensure merit, the university management is making efforts against various malpractices and has taken up this challenge as a mission and this has started producing a positive thinking. 

In this regard he particularly referred to the work being done at Career Planning department under the guidance of a highly educational expert Siraj Khilji, whereby a positive guidance is being provided to students. 

He told the journalists that the sports activities at SSUET are being brought into a system with an end to adhocism. This would include sports based admissions and scholarships. 

He informed that the university has various sport teams like cricket, hockey, football badminton, table tennis, basket ball, boxing under qualified coaches while a team of girls in basketball has also been raised. He said plans are afoot to raise teams in snooker, squash and other sports. 

He said that their teams have won trophies and awards in various events and the university can also hold events under HEC. He shared that the SSUET’s Electronic team was the national robotic champion. 

The Vice-President AMUOBA, Anwar Ali, Director Sports SSUET, Mubbashir Mukhtar and Director Literary and Cultural Forum, Razi Haider, were also present on the occasion.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

New intensive care facility for children launched at Aga Khan Hospital


By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

A brand new Pediatric Intensive Care Unit was inaugurated at the Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH), Karachi, on May 23.

Specially designed to treat children fighting life-threatening diseases, the new 5,500 square foot, Rs 200 million, eight-bed facility will facilitate many more infants, toddlers and pre-teens whose fragile health requires special attention. 

A quick glance at Pakistan’s child mortality rates highlights the urgent need for dedicated facilities to treat children facing complicated diseases. 

One in 11 children die before their fifth birthday and one in 66 infants lose their lives before the age of one, according to Unicef’s State of Children in Pakistan report. Over the past five years, the university’s teaching hospital at Stadium Road, Karachi, has noticed a three-fold increase in children requiring intensive care. 

The new Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) will provide personalized care to around 400 at-risk children every year thereby helping address the shortage of intensive care facilities for children. 

Outlining the need for a PICU, Interim Head of the Division for Women and Child Health Professor Iqtidar Ahmad Khan noted: “At present many critically ill children continue to receive treatment alongside adults in intensive care units even though a child’s needs are different to that of an adult.”


“A dedicated facility will improve the availability of specialists for ailing children and also create a more comfortable environment for parents seeking the best treatment for their child,” he added. 

The new facility has eight large rooms whose open spaces have been designed to enable a variety of specialists to collaborate in treating the child. 

A dedicated waiting area is present for families and a parent can be with the child in the room whenever s/he is awake. Every room is equipped with state-of-the-art ventilators and advanced syringe pumps to administer essential medicines. Monitoring systems constantly track breathing, heart function and electrical activity in the brain. 

The PICU also houses two negative pressure isolation rooms to provide special care to children with contagious diseases. The advanced systems available in each room are used by skilled pediatricians supported by a team of nurses, one nurse to each patient ensuring that no child in intensive care is left alone. 

Each nurse is trained to identify signs of worsening health in young babies and is aware of how to calm the fears of children and parents in the unfamiliar environment of a hospital. 

The opening of the PICU follows the January 2015 doubling in the capacity of the University Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) to a 24-bedded unit, which cares for babies under the age of 28 days. 

“The Pediatric Intensive Care Unit is an integral part of the University’s commitment to Women and Child Health. This focus on children’s health through the provision of intensive care for neonates, babies and adolescents is a key part of our services and education as well as research," commenting on the impact of the PICU, the AKU President, Firoz Rasul, remarked. 

The benefits of the PICU will extend beyond the boundaries of the AKUH and its patients. During treatment, AKUH’s specialists are constantly sharing their expertise in pediatric critical care with young doctors through the University’s fellowship programme. 

Upon the completion of their education and training, fellow will be able to apply their skills at any hospital, inside or outside Pakistan. 

At the ceremony, one of the PICU donors said: “There is nothing worse for a parent than seeing their child suffer from a life-threatening disease. The uncertainty and helplessness of such difficult times is eased when you know that there is a specially designed facility that can bring them back to health.” 

“We know that there is a shortage of high quality facilities to treat critically ill children. By helping the AKUH set up such a facility, we are confident that we can save the lives of many young kids,” he added.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Simple intervention can preserve kidney health

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Up to one in five adults in Pakistan has chronic kidney disease, which has become one of the rapidly escalating causes of death. Patients with advanced CKD require dialysis or transplantation, unaffordable for the vast majority of people.

A research paper published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology revealed that simple and inexpensive public health interventions could help prevent many cases of CKD. 

As part of a two-year study conducted at Aga Khan University (AKU) in Karachi, researchers Professor Tazeen Jafar, Health Services & Systems Research at Duke NUS Medical School in Singapore and Duke Global Health Institute in Durham, and Visiting Consultant Nephrologist, Singapore General Hospital, and Dr Imtiaz Jehan, Associate Professor of Community Health Sciences at AKU observed more than 1,200 individuals with high blood pressure. 

The intervention included training community health workers on the many aspects of a healthy lifestyle such as improving diet, stopping smoking, increasing physical activity, and taking prescribed blood pressure-lowering medications besides training community general practitioners on the latest standards for managing hypertension. 

After seven years of follow up, five years after cessation of the intervention, the kidney function remained unchanged among adults in the communities assigned to the intervention, whereas it significantly declined among those who received usual care. 

Patients with the intervention were half as likely as other patients to experience over 20 per cent decline in kidney function. 

“Unfortunately, there is a dearth of information on public health interventions to preserve kidney health and prevent CKD, even though certain unhealthy lifestyle factors and conditions such as obesity, hypertension and diabetes are common, and are known to increase the risk of developing CKD,” Dr Jehan said. 

“This study shows that such a practical model based on training primary care physicians coupled with lifestyle advice from non-physician health workers is likely to have a long-term benefit on preserving kidney function at a population level,” Professor Jafar observed. 

“These simple strategies can be implementable in other low- and middle-income countries with similar risk factor burden and health systems infrastructure.” 

Other authors of the paper included Dr John Allen and Seyed Ehsan Saffari from Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, Dr Aamir Hameed from AKU, Professor Shah Ebrahim from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Professors Neil Poulter and Nish Chaturvedi from Imperial College London.

VC visits SSUET heatstroke centre


By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Vice Chancellor of the Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology (SSUET), Prof Dr Jawed H Rizvi, visited the Heat Stroke Treatment Centre established by the university within its campus. 

The SSUET took a lead over other universities with the establishment of a Heat Stroke Treatment Centre which was inaugurated by the SSUET Chancellor, Jawaid Anwar, on May 19. 

With the temperature continuously soaring, alongwith humidity, the centre has been equipped with necessary facilities and is supervised by doctors and paramedical staff of the university's Medical Centre round the clock.

During the visit the SSUET Registrar, Syed Sarfraz Ali, and Dr Mohammad Taufiq briefed the Vice Chancellor about the salient features of the centre. 

Accompanied by university officials, the Vice Chancellor also inquired about the condition of a student, having been admitted in the centre. 

Chancellor Jawaid Anwar has already directed that besides any mishap within the campus, the facility should also be available to anyone outside the campus. 

The SSUET has taken the initiative of establishing the centre as a precautionary measure to the meet the oppressive summer months of Karachi.

Friday, May 20, 2016

SSUET sets up heatstroke treatment centre


By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology (SSUET), Karachi, has taken a lead over other educational institutions by having set up a heatstroke treatment centre within the campus premises on the directives of its Chancellor Jawaid Anwar.

It may be recalled that the city of Karachi had endured its most oppressive summer in decades last year which caused heavy casualties. As preemptive measures, some organizations have made arrangements and the SSUET has led by example by creating the much-needed facility at its campus. 

With the temperature continuously soaring and the humidity also on the rise, the centre has been equipped with necessary facilities and is being supervised by doctors and paramedical staff of the university's Medical Center round the clock. 

The center was visited by Chancellor Jawaid Anwar, who appreciated the efforts made in this regard and observed that it was reflective of the university's concern about the healthcare of its students and staff, both teaching and non-teaching and other employees. An ambulance is also on duty round the clock to carry any heat stroke affected person.

The chancellor directed that besides any mishap within the camps, the facility should also be available to anyone outside the campus. 

The Vice President of the Aligarh Muslim University Old Boys Association (AMUOBA), Anwar Ali, and the SSUET Registrar, Syed Sarfraz Ali, were also present on the occasion. 

The centre was also visited by Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Jawaid H. Rizvi later in the afternoon and he praised the university's medical team in setting up of the heatstroke treatment centre.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Role of midwives and nurses in health system recognized


By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The speakers highlighted the threats posed by global health crises and the role of nurses and midwives in keeping Pakistan’s health system resilient in the face of new risks at a symposium to commemorate International Nurses and Midwives Day at the Aga Khan University, Karachi.

In a world that is vulnerable to disease outbreaks such as the current mosquito-borne Zika virus spreading across Latin America, swine flu and last year’s Ebola virus pandemic in West Africa, and where climate change is leaving populations exposed to soaring temperatures and natural disasters, care from well-prepared nurses and midwives can save lives. 

“As nurses, we need to be thinking ahead of our role during disease outbreaks or natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes,” Salma Jaffer, chief nursing officer at AKU, remarked. 

“We are at the front line of providing treatment to affected people, communicating reliable information and dispelling fears. It is essential that nurses are both aware of and ready to play their role in a health crisis,” she added. Nurses and midwives both have a critical role to play in health systems, in keeping mothers and children healthy. 

Ms Arusa Lakhani, director of midwifery at AKU’s School of Nursing and Midwifery, pointed out that Pakistan has the third-highest number of maternal deaths in the world, with 1 in 400 mothers, 276 deaths per 100,000 live births, dying from complications during pregnancy and childbirth. 

Improving maternal health indicators is a public health priority and Ms Lakhani highlighted that UNFPA (United Nations Fund for Population) was funding a higher education programme at the School to improve the skills of practicing midwives. The Post-RM BScM programme is using a mixture of face-to-face education and elearning to reach out to midwives in all the provinces. 

“Investing in midwifery pays in strengthening health system and in managing humanitarian crisis. We hope to do even more in the future to improve the transfer of knowledge and skills to health workers we are looking at designing mobile apps that will help us provide short education videos and even advice in Urdu and Sindhi,” she said.

Ms Lakhani hoped that AKU’s new undergraduate degree in midwifery and its higher education programme continued to equip midwives with the new skills, concepts and the confidence to offer all-round assistance and support to expectant mothers, especially in hard-to-reach areas. 

"A pregnant woman should be able to decide who will deliver her child. She should not hesitate in seeking a midwife who can assess her fitness to deliver a child outside a hospital. Whether a mother lives in a busy city or a far-flung rural area, she has a right to a safe birth,” she stated. 

Nurses too have to deal with challenging situations and modern-day problems every day that affect their ability to remain resilient. 

However, “nurses must always be prepared, mindful of a patient’s circumstances and strive to treat them with dignity,” Ms Yasmin Vellani, general surgery nursing specialist at the Aga Khan University Hospital, observed. 

“Keeping these principles in mind will enable nurses to continue to be a force for good,” she emphasized. 

Since 1981, AKU’s nursing school has trained over 3,762 nurses to advocate for patients’ rights and to assist patients suffering from everything from cancer to the common flu. To date, 24 midwives have graduated from the bachelor’s programme in midwifery. 

Prominent speakers on the day included chief guest Brig. Razia Ishfaq, director, Armed Forces Nursing Services, and keynote speaker Surriya Shahnaz, vice-president, Pakistan Nursing Council.

Friday, May 13, 2016

SSUET set to launch new courses

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology (SSUET), Karachi, is all set to launch new courses in near future with ;Management Sciences’ being on top of the list.

"The new course of Management Sciences, to include MBA and BBA, will start after its formal approval by the university's Academic Council and finally 'go ahead' from the Board of Governors,” the SSUET Vice-Chancellor, Prof Dr Jawaid H Rizvi, in an interview. 

The Vice-Chancellor pointed out that the university, having started with only two technologies of Computer and Electronic Engineering in 1994, now had as many as 10 disciplines with three technologies of Electrical, Architecture and Software Engineering having been added in 2014 while its enrollment grew from 200 students to over 6,043 students in 2016. 

“We started with just a couple of technologies but now we have expanded the programme to 10 new departments. We have plans in hand to further expand the university keeping in view the national, international demand and market trend,” he remarked. 

He informed that the university has produced more than 14,000 graduates so far and the aim was to turn out true professionals who can face competitive world of today and tomorrow with full confidence when they enter practical life.

Prof Dr Jawaid Rizvi said that the ultimate test of the institution lied in successfully achieving job placements for its graduating students. “The situation is encouraging and our graduates are well placed, either pursuing higher education doing MS or Ph.D or doing jobs abroad or in Pakistan,” he added. 

He said that there were a large number of graduates in business and recently, in order to further reinforce career planning and placement function, the university had upgraded the function and renamed the department as Centre of Guidance and Career Planning and Placement Bureau (CGCPPB) headed by a senior and internationally experienced Adviser. 

The bureau is taking number initiatives to facilitate students in internship programs in industry and also helping senior students and graduates in their career development. 

Prof Dr Jawaid Rizvi stated that in accordance with Higher Education Commission's guidelines, a Quality Enhancement Cell (QEC), headed by a very senior level professor doctor as its Director. It is regularly organizing training workshops and some of the faculty members were sent to Thailand for advanced training in quality education. 

 At the end of each semester the QEC carries out a student feedback survey to incorporate suggestions and comments of students in our educational system, he added. 

Replying a question the VC said that the curriculum is regularly updated through university’s’ Statutory Bodies in conformity with the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC) standards and remain at par with the contemporary and future requirements in the fields of engineering, science, and technology. 

He said that the statutory bodies appointed by the government regularly visit this university and evaluate its academic activities, research work, faculty performance and all other functions. The HEC had graded SSUET in W-4 category and its engineering programs accredited by PEC while Chartered Inspection and Evaluation Committee (CIEC) had rated the SSUET as 5-star University. 

He described the university’s admission policy straight forward with merit-based admission while strictly observing HEC, PEC quite strictly.

He said the University generously offers scholarships to students based on merit and also offers financial assistance to deserving needy students to ensure students are not deprived of studies due to any genuine financial constraint. 

He disclosed that the SSUET was a member of the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) and a member of International Association of Universities (IAU). Sponsored by UNESCO, the university was on the Board of Governors of IAU for 8 years. 

To a question Prof Dr Jawaid Rizvi said the university coordinates with professional bodies like IEEE USA and IEEE Pakistan, Institute of Engineers Pakistan (IEP), Pakistan Software Houses Association (PASHA), Pakistan Software Board besides having close working relationship with KCCI and FPCCI, which are represented in the university committees like Finance and Planning, Board of Studies, Board of Faculties and Academic Council. 

He informed that every year the university bring out its research journal and give incentives to faculty members and research scholars for conducting research. It has an impressive library with a total of 92,560 text books, reference books and a Book Bank besides a Digital Library and each department having its own library. 

The Vice Chancellor said that the university organized job fairs and displays projects, posters of projects. These are attended by professionals, management level personnel and entrepreneurs. In order to cope with growing future demand of the university, 

Prof Dr Jawaid Rizvi stated that it has 200 acres of land in the Education City where its new campus will be built with all necessary facilities for learning and recreation. 

A concept plan of new campus has been prepared and the SSUET Chancellor, Jawaid Anwar, has formed a Master Plan Committee to prepared MP in conformity with the overall MP of Education City.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Investing in adolescent health and wellbeing could transform global health


By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Decades of neglect and chronic underinvestment have had serious detrimental effects on the health and wellbeing of adolescents aged 10–24 years, according to a major new Lancet Commission on adolescent health and wellbeing. 

The Commission brings together 30 of the world’s leading experts from 14 countries, including Professor Zulfiqar A. Bhutta, Founding Director of the Aga Khan University’s Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health and co-Director of the SickKids Centre for Global Child Health in Toronto, and two young health advocates, led by four academic institutions: the University of Melbourne, Australia; University College London, UK; the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, UK; and Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, USA. 

“Given the burgeoning number of young people in Pakistan, both boys and girls, it is imperative that they play an active role in national development, supported by the requisite freedoms, rights and access to education and empowerment. Only by fully engaging and supporting our youth can Pakistan achieve its full potential,” Professor Bhutta reckoned. 

The report says that two-thirds of young people are growing up in countries where preventable and treatable health problems like HIV/AIDS, early pregnancy, unsafe sex, depression, injury, and violence remain a daily threat to their health, wellbeing and life chances. 

Evidence shows that behaviours that start in adolescence can determine health and wellbeing for a lifetime. Adolescents today also face new challenges, including rising levels of obesity and mental health disorders, high unemployment and the risk of radicalisation. 

Adolescent health and wellbeing is also a key driver of a wide range of the Sustainable Development Goals on health, nutrition, education, gender, equality and food security, and the costs of inaction are enormous, warn the authors. 

“This generation of young people can transform all our futures. There is no more pressing task in global health than ensuring they have the resources to do so. This means it will be crucial to invest urgently in their health, education, livelihoods, and participation,”  the Commission’s lead author Professor George Patton, University of Melbourne, Australia, noted.

Adolescents aged 10–24 years represent over a quarter of the population (1.8 billion), 89 per cent of whom live in developing countries. Their number is set to rise to about 2 billion by 2032. Adolescence is a critical time of formative growth and brain development second only to infancy. 

“Puberty triggers a cascading process of brain development and emotional change that continues through to the mid-20s. It brings a different and more intense engagement with the world beyond an adolescent’s immediate family. These processes shape an individual’s identity and the capabilities he/she takes forward into later life. It profoundly shapes health and wellbeing across the life-course,” Professor Patto explained. 

Although global health efforts have been successful in improving the health of children under 5 in the past few decades, this has not been matched by a similar response in older age groups. 

Although global mortality has fallen for young people aged 10–24 years since 1990, the pace of decline has been slower than in younger children, especially for males, according to a major new international analysis of findings from the Global Burden of Disease project led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, Seattle, USA, published alongside the Commission. 

The IHME analysis reveals that HIV/AIDS, road traffic accidents, and drowning caused a quarter of deaths in 10–14 year olds globally in 2013, with diarrhoeal and intestinal infectious diseases, lower respiratory infections, and malaria contributing to a further 21 per cent of deaths. 

Road traffic accidents (14.2 per cent and 15.6 per cent), self-harm (8.4 per cent and 9.3 per cent), and violence (5.5 per cent and 6.6 per cent) are the leading causes of death for 15–19 year olds and 20–24 years olds respectively.
It is crucial to involve young people in transforming their wellbeing, personal development, and health, the authors said.

Digital media and new technologies offer remarkable opportunities to engage and empower young people to drive change. There is also a pressing need to ensure that all young people have opportunities and access to universal health coverage regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, and marital and socioeconomic status, particularly the marginalised. 

“Young people are the world’s greatest untapped resource,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, writing in a linked comment, remarked. 

“Adolescents can be key driving forces in building a future of dignity for all. If we can make a positive difference in the lives of 10-year-old girls and boys today, and expand their opportunities and capabilities over the next 15 years, we can ensure the success of the SDGs. For me, the acronym “SDG” also stands for “Sustainable Development Generation”, and sustainability means engaging future generations today.” 

The Commission authors made several recommendations to improve prospects for adolescent health and wellbeing echoing those of The Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s, and Adolescent’s Health launched in September, 2015, leading with the urgent need to expand access to free secondary education; get serious about the laws that empower and protect adolescents such as guaranteeing 18 years as the minimum age for marriage; and continue gathering better evidence for action particularly around mental health and violence. 

Other recommendations included collecting and reporting on a minimum set of priority indicators for adolescent health reflecting the burden of disease and risk factors, and for robust, transparent governance and accountability for adolescent health.

AKU introduces real-time vaccination monitoring

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Routine immunization rates have been falling in Sindh from 37 per cent in 2006-07 to 29 per cent in 2012-13. This is one of the reasons behind polio endemicity and is leading to outbreaks of deadly preventable childhood diseases such as measles. Other diseases covered by routine immunization are hepatitis B, pneumococcal infections, diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis.

A pilot project in District Tando Muhammad Khan (TMK) implemented by Aga Khan University and supported by Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations assessed the barriers and strengthened government Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) services through game changers. 

It helped in finding out what was wrong with routine immunization and how it could be improved. The result was a jump in routine immunization from 15-19 per cent surveyed for different vaccines–to 49-84 per cent as reported by independent monitoring. 

According to the project lead for this component Dr Shehla Zaidi, Associate Professor, Women and Child Health Division, Aga Khan University, the main bottlenecks were low accountability of routine immunization, children often getting missed for vaccination at health facilities, insufficient visits to villages by vaccinators, and little efforts at routine immunization awareness even by the health workforce on ground. 

Above all, the vaccination reporting was not verified, the numbers reported by government’s EPI are much higher than that by the national Pakistan Demographic and Health Surveys, showing the gap in performance accountability. So the project used strategies that can be sustained by the government, involve little cost and do not involve additional manpower. 

The breakthrough came by focusing on performance accountability of vaccination, monitored independently through a smart phone android application. Named Teeko, the app was designed with the Aga Khan Development Network e-Health Resource Centre in Karachi. 

It monitors the number of children being immunized, vaccinators’ movement, vaccine stock available at union council with real data instantly available for checking at district and provincial level. And the district took action by suspending low performing vaccinators and publically appreciating well performing ones. 

Fuel support for visiting villages was provided to vaccinators based on immunization performance provided to vaccinators– and a detailed district micro-plan developed. A team approach to vaccination was brought in bringing the Department of Health staff and People's Primary Healthcare Initiative staff together as a single team to reduce children missed for vaccination. 

Single window system was put in place at basic health units and rural health centers so that every child who comes in is screened for vaccination status, at colorful child friendly EPI rooms. All frontline health staff from doctors to dispensers to lady health workers got trained to actively counsel and referred children for immunization. 

The team also planned together for monthly achievement of union council targets. Communication to community was improved through one time, sustainable measures. Demand generation messages were sent to all mobile phone users for children registration, and local FM radio broadcast jingles. The innovations were designed in close collaboration with Sindh EPI, implemented through the district government and with input from UN agencies. 

“At the same time, we had a high number of vaccinations reported that didn’t match the actual disease outbreak numbers. As the three month roll-out results show, there is instant online reporting of children under one-year-old vaccinated against targets, static and outreach performance, as well as details of under-performing and over-performing union councils,” Dr Shehla Zaidi added. 

District officials and legislators have welcomed the new planning and monitoring systems and are aware of the efforts that have been invested in the project. 

“A major challenge for the district administration will be to sustain the progress we have made after the project is over,” Agha Abdul Raheem, Deputy Commissioner, TMK., observed. 

“The real-time performance monitoring has been the major driver and can be taken over by EPI Sindh at very little additional cost and incorporated in its upcoming expanded EPI support," Dr Shehla Zaidi reckoned.