Friday, January 31, 2020

Innovative solutions proposed to boost emergency preparedness at schools

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The students, teachers, engineers and experts from different walks of life gathered to design cost-effective and locally-relevant solutions to enhance the ability of schools to manage natural and man-made disasters, during a three-day hackathon at Aga Khan University’s Institute for Educational Development. 

The participants at the event noted that the rare nature of emergencies such as fires, floods and other safety hazards meant that public and private sector schools were unprepared and ill-equipped to deal with such crises. 

Unfortunately, such one-off events can have a disproportionate, and often catastrophic, impact on a school’s operations and stakeholders. That’s why emergency response trainings, safety drills and other means of ensuring emergency preparedness need to be a regular part of a school’s strategic planning and processes, the speakers pointed out. 

The experts added that mitigation measures were often taken in the aftermath of disasters as they called on schools to adopt a forward-thinking approach that considered all possible risks in their environment as well as the processes needed to effectively manage a disaster. 

One of the three winning teams at the event, BVS School Team, highlighted the problem of fires caused by short circuits in computer labs, classrooms and staff rooms. 

They noted that the simple, preventive step of installing a carbon dioxide chamber inside electrical switchboards could stop a potential fire at its source and reduce the threat of loss of life and property. Other teams at the event identified the way safety drills were conducted as being a problem. 

“The customary drills that happen in my school are casually planned. There is no seriousness exhibited on the part of student body or administration. It’s critical that the mindset changes before any calamity strikes again,” Ahsan, a high school student taking part in the hackathon, remarked. 

Team Zords proposed the use of virtual reality (VR) technology to ensure active participation in safety drills. They stated that VR provided an immersive experience for trainees which enhanced the retention of key concepts. The team called on schools to prepare tailored sessions and a ‘safety curriculum’ that would enable them to impart safety drills in a more engaging manner. 

The final winning team at the event, ER Tales, also selected the problem of a lack of attention during drills leading to ineffective response during emergencies and disaster situations. 

They suggested the use of pictorial storybooks as a supplement to drills. The use of stories centered on safety would build interest in the subject and drills could then be used to assess the level of knowledge and ability to effectively respond to a situation. 

During the hackathon, Zara Qadir, a primary school teacher, shared an instance of the impact of effective security drills. 

She recalled hearing a siren in class and seeing her students spring into action to shut the windows and switch off the lights before they all hid under their desks. Zara mistook the siren, which was for an intruder alert, for a fire alarm. 

When she asked students to leave the room to head for the fire assembly point, they responded that they were supposed to hide and stay invisible in order to stay safe. 

“The purpose of our hackathons is not only to mobilise people within the organization, but also to demonstrate the event’s ability to engage the external community in the innovation process. The school preparedness for emergencies hack is a classic example of that democratisation of the innovation process,” Dr Asad Mian, founder of AKU’s Critical Creative Innovative Thinking Forum (CCIT) and chair of emergency medicine at the University, observed. 

"We are thrilled to see the energy and creativity the participants have poured into this hackathon. Creating safe schools is not an afterthought now: it is a priority and the community is working together to design solutions to help schools prepare for emergencies,” Azra Naseem, one of the event’s co-organizers, a faculty member at AKU’s Institute for Educational Development and associate director of the Blended Learning Network at AKU, added. 

The event was organized by AKU's Institute for Educational Development and CCIT forum in collaboration with the University’s departments of emergency medicine, and safety and security.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

AKU’s CIME becomes South Asia’s first simulation-based educational institution

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Aga Khan University’s Centre for Innovation in Medical Education (CIME) has become South Asia’s first simulation-based educational institution to be accredited by the US-based Society for Simulation in Healthcare (SSIH). 

The University’s CIME was judged to meet the highest standards in simulation-based education by the SSIH which has accredited over 170 centres in 19 countries around the world. The accreditation means that CIME will join a global community of practice bringing the latest advances in the field to Pakistan. 

The simulation-based education represents a significant advance on traditional classroom and theory-based instruction. 

Designed to be an immersive ‘real world’ experience, simulation, in the field of healthcare, enables medical and nursing trainees and professionals to practice key skills and techniques, using virtual reality and high-fidelity patient mannequins, in a risk-free environment before working with patients. 

The CIME Director Charles Docherty, Dr Robert J Buchanan, Professor in Teaching and Technology, received the award during a ceremony in San Diego. In his speech at the event, he noted: “Healthcare is both an art and a science. While textbooks and teachers can teach concepts, simulation-based education augments the academic experience by challenging students to apply their knowledge and inter-personal skills in realistic settings.” 

“The result is that students feel more confident when they begin practicing as they are already familiar with the equipment to be used and the processes to be followed. This leads to a much better experience for students and patients,” he added. 

As a pioneer in healthcare simulation in Pakistan, the 80,000 square feet CIME is Pakistan’s only facility that enables aspiring doctors, nurses, dentists and allied health professionals to work collaboratively on a range of challenging, technology-enhanced patient scenarios. 

“The CIME was founded with the vision of introducing state-of-the-art learning technologies to raise overall standards of healthcare education across Pakistan. There are simulation centres around the world that have been operating for decades without achieving accreditation from the SSIH. We are very proud that CIME has been able to achieve this distinction within two years of its formal inauguration,” the AKU President, Firoz Rasul, remarked. 

The CIME runs over 200 simulation-based courses, ranging from basic life-support to complex birth scenarios that have improved the skills of thousands of healthcare professionals to date. 

“We’re pleased to recognize Aga Khan University’s Centre for Innovation in Medical Education for meeting the highest standards in the practice of simulation in healthcare. The Aga Khan University now joins the ranks of over 170 institutions from 19 countries,” Kristyn Gadlage, Director of accreditation at the Society for Simulation in Healthcare, announced. 

The CIME is open to students from other universities and healthcare institutions across Pakistan and is currently working with public sector bodies in the country as well as centres in Kenya, Uganda and Egypt on initiatives to raise the standard of simulation-based healthcare education.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Eminent cardiologists speak at Pulse 2020

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Dietary practices are a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases and diabetes in Pakistan because health practitioners have difficulty translating international recommendations according to local diet. In the absence of any national data on dietary consumption, health practitioners are unaware of what people are consuming. 

There is a need for an operational policy and an action plan to promote healthy eating and active lifestyle, the speakers noted at the First Cardiovascular Conference ‘Pulse 2020’ held at Aga Khan University (AKU), Karachi. 

Cardiovascular diseases are the number one cause of death in Pakistan, according to the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017, and the country has committed to reducing the burden of such diseases by a third by 2030 under goal 3 of the sustainable development goals. 

The experts at the three-day conference stressed that the epidemic poses many challenges in the country due to the high cost of diagnosis and treatment and lack of prevention knowledge among patients. 

“Health is a partnership between a patient and his/her doctor, so empowerment has to happen from both ends. Right choices in dietary practices need to be picked by patients and advised by health professionals,” Dr Saira Bukhari, an assistant professor of cardiology in the department of medicine, remarked. 

There have been well-designed studies in the last few years which have found that diets which are inclined towards one set of nutrients as opposed to others don’t work and do more harm than good. 

“Such dietary practices are in contradiction to how the human body functions. It is all about having a diet of moderation,” Dr Romaina Iqbal, associate professor and section head for non-communicable diseases, NCDs, in the department of community health sciences at the AKU, added. 

Dr Romaina Iqbal recommended eating a balanced diet composed of complex carbohydrates, a variety of nutrients along with 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical exercise for adults of all ages. 

The speakers noted that numerous dietary plans catch media’s attention and people adopt them. The experts stressed that health practitioners need to introduce the language of prevention with patients. 

The knowledge of symptoms of cardiovascular diseases such as chest pain, shortage of breath, unusual heart beat and loss of consciousness are some of the indicators that patients should be informed about. 

Dr Saira Bukhari said that ideas promoting stereotypical notions of age and health such as how cholesterol and blood pressure numbers should be at a particular age should be discouraged. 

“Patients need to be enabled to make informed choices of their health because every delayed intervention increases the chance of heart attacks and even stroke,” she added. 

The keynote speaker, Dr Faiez Zannad, a cardiologist and clinical pharmacologist at Universit√© de Lorraine in France, reckoned that the global progress in treating heart failure has been spectacular in the last 25 years with mortality declining three fold in dedicated clinical trials, pointing out that evidence from global clinical trials show income inequality as a factor determining clinical outcomes in heart failure. 

“It is desirable that patients and investigators from Pakistan get involved in global trials and join the efforts of knowledge production,” he said. 

Two other keynote speakers who spoke at the conference included Dr Jospeh Kisslo, professor of medicine at Duke University Medical Center and Eric Velazquez, professor of medicine at Yale University. 

The conference was held in collaboration between AKU’s section of cardiology and department of medicine, the Association of Pakistani-descent Cardiologists of North America, the Pakistan Hypertension League and the Pakistan Aspirin Foundation. The event was attended cardiologists, postgraduate students, nurses, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals.