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Showing posts with label Aga Khan University. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Aga Khan University. Show all posts

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Pakistan advised to revise approach to gender equality

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Pakistan’s economic and social development indicators will continue to lag behind other counties until it rethinks its approach to gender equity and commits to gender mainstreaming, according to the experts speaking at a conference at Aga Khan University (AKU) in Karachi.

The speakers at ‘The Time is Now: Gender Equity and Women in Leadership’ noted that there was widespread misinformation about the scale of gender inequality in the workplace and society as a whole. 

They explained that while most people are willing to assert that men and women should be treated as equals, they rarely question why there continues to be a lack of women in upper management and leadership positions across the public and private sector. 

Pakistan has the second lowest rank in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2018, behind all other countries in South Asia. Estimates suggest that it will take over 70 years for the country’s men and women to have equal levels of economic participation and opportunity, parity in educational and health indicators, and similar levels of political empowerment. 

“There are strong cultural norms and structural inequities that continue to hold women back,” Dr Ayesha Mian, conference chair, who holds the positions of dean of students and chair of the department of psychiatry at AKU, remarked.
She stated that these norms mean that men are rarely expected to make compensations in their career for their family, or to play an equal role in parenting and caregiving. 

Similarly, women, to a much greater degree than men, face double standards in the workplace and are held to a higher benchmark than men. 

For example, women are often labelled as ‘bossy’ or ‘aggressive’ for actions deemed acceptable for men, and women’s requests for flexible work timings to deal with family commitments are more likely to be seen as showing a lack of commitment to the workplace. One of the most noticeable inequalities is in pay parity which worsens as women ascend the corporate ladder. 

Dr Ayesha shared how data from the United States shows that on average women earn 21 per cent less than men, while women who reach the top positions are paid a salary that is 61 per cent lower than their male counterparts.
“Gender equality involves society equally valuing the different needs, behaviours and aspirations of women and men, boys and girls. By being knowledgeable and responsive to gender considerations societies can ensure that everyone has the same rights, responsibilities and access to opportunity, regardless of whether they were born male or female,” Lindsay Mossman, senior gender equality adviser at the Aga Khan Foundation, Canada, observed. 

The worthy speakers at the conference called on organizations to make their planning and decision making processes more sensitive and responsive to the importance of gender. This approach, often referred to as gender mainstreaming, would enable the country to achieve gender equality. 

This would require workplaces to place a greater emphasis on collecting and reporting on the performance of programmes by gender. This includes details on how many men and women are promoted, those dropping out of the workforce or, how a company’s operations affect each gender. 

In the absence of gender-disaggregated information, management cannot monitor whether initiatives to narrow gaps are working nor can they be held accountable. 

Roshaneh Zafar, Managing Director, Kashf Foundation, shared examples of how her organisation maintained gender-specific data on employee participation and attainment levels that enabled action to be taken if inequalities were noticed. 

She disclosed that when data showed that women were dropping out of the workforce after marriage, she was able to launch awareness programmes for their families to address the issue. 

She added that her organization would not open a branch in an area until they achieve parity between female and male staff. 

Gender-disaggregated information drives change in organisations and the current reliance on anecdotal data to assess progress tends to disguise inequalities and to promote tokenism. 

For example, many workplaces cite the presence of a few token women in senior positions, or the absence of complaints, as proof that their internal systems and practices are fair. This perpetuates a mistaken belief that low levels of female representation are a result of women’s capabilities and their own personal choices, which further impedes efforts to ensure equality. 

Gender mainstreaming also requires a commitment to parity in interview panels and committees. Organizations should always be asking themselves if there is a diverse group of decision-makers on the table that represent different strengths and perspectives, the speakers noted. 

Moreover, parity needs to be present at all levels in the organization: boardroom, executive level, senior management and general workforce. 

In the long-term, the presence of a critical mass of women in leadership positions has been found to have an aspirational effect on other females, the speakers added. 

The Unilever Pakistan Chairperson and CEO, Shazia Syed, spoke about the importance of being sensitive to the needs of different employees. 

She explained how her company had opened a women’s hostel in Karachi so that the parents of female employees feel comfortable with their daughter living on her own in a large city. 

“Daycare facilities are available for both men and women with children as this helps ensure that the wives of male employees are able to continue working,” she revealed. 

During a panel session, the Standard Chartered Pakistan CEO, Shazad Dada, noted that organizations that were diverse and sensitive to gender considerations were more productive and would benefit from staff more committed to the company. 

He added that gender equality initiatives made solid business sense and stated that the country as a whole would suffer if 50 per cent of its population continued to be left behind. 

The speakers concluded that the gender gap is concerning for Pakistan as the sustainable development goals contain a set of targets related to gender equality which Pakistan has committed to achieving by 2030. 

A study by the McKinsey Global Institute has found that the global economy would grow by US $28 trillion, or 25 per cent, if women participated in the economy to the same extent as men. Pakistan’s low ranking in gender equality means that it has the potential to benefit to a much greater extent from initiatives to promote gender equality, they added. 

Dr Ayesha Mian, who is spearheading the Gender Equity and Women in Leadership initiative at AKU, informed that universities have an integral role in hosting discourses with multiple community stakeholders on issues that are pressing and critical to society. 

Over 400 academics, activists and representatives from the banking, healthcare, media, law, and fast-moving consumer goods industries took part in the one-day event which is the first of a series of conferences aimed at spurring efforts to address the problem of gender inequality.

Monday, December 2, 2019

AKU graduates urged to face challenges with courage, perseverance


By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

As many as 350 fresh graduates celebrated the completion of their programmes at the Aga Khan University’s convocation ceremony on November 30 where they were urged to remember the importance of courage, perseverance and agility in the years to come.

The chief guest at the event, Dr Sania Nishtar, special assistant to Pakistan’s prime minister on social protection and poverty alleviation, spoke to the graduating class about integrity, or staying true to one’s moral principles. 

“The crux of my experience leads me to believe that in order to make lasting and sustainable change you have to root your actions in integrity. It has become a bit cliché but the time-old adage of doing the right thing for the right reasons is something that you must hold very dear to your heart as you walk into the real world,” she remarked 

The real world is beset by many challenges: widening inequities, demographic challenges, rapid urbanization and a context in which collusive behaviours are deeply entrenched. But such challenges also offer huge opportunity. For example, advancements in artificial intelligence and pharmacogenetics, the study of how genetics impact an individual’s response to medicine, are transforming medicine and today’s graduates have the opportunity to change the world dramatically.

In his welcome address, the AKU President, Firoz Rasul called on graduates to make the most of their education by embracing challenges and to never let setbacks hold them back from achieving their goals. 

“There is no such thing as a life without setbacks. Remember that those who survive disappointment with their determination intact, and learn the hard lessons it has to teach, are forces to be reckoned with,” he declared. 

He urged the graduates to remember the value of courage in difficult times and to develop an agile mindset that would enable them to overcome all obstacles in their way. “Agility is nothing other than responsiveness to changing condition. Stay agile, remain courageous, and continue to persevere and you will achieve all that you’re capable of,” he added. 

This year, students received degrees and diplomas in different disciplines including nursing, midwifery, medicine, education, dental hygiene and Muslim Culture. This included 181 graduates from the School of Nursing and Midwifery, 143 from the Medical College, 16 from the Institute of Educational Development and 10 from the Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilizations.

A number of students won awards at the convocation. The 2019 Medical College Best Graduating Student Award went to Dr Maya Zahid Khan, who also received the AKU Medical College’s Gold Medal for achieving the highest score in three out of four certifying examinations. She is only the tenth student in the University’s history to receive this medal. 

The 2019 School of Nursing and Midwifery Best Graduating Student Award went to Ms Sahar Makhani. Three Awards of Distinction were presented to Dr Amirali Pyarally Gulamhusein, Mr Asif Fancy and Mr Louis Ariano for their significant contributions to the University’s development. An Award of Excellence in Teaching and Teaching Leadership was conferred on Dr Rashida Ahmed and an Award of Excellence in Research was given to Dr Rumina Hasan. 

Professor Emeritus and Professor Emerita were conferred on five retired members of faculty Professor Abul Faizi, Professor Mohammad Perwaiz Iqbal, Professor Murad Moosa Khan, Professor Nelofer Halai and Professor Yasmin Noorali Amarsi for their sustained contributions to teaching, scholarship and service throughout their careers. 

Dr Zulfiqar A. Bhutta, founding chair of the University’s Center for Excellence in Women and Child Health, was elevated to the rank of Distinguished University Professor and is just the second faculty member to hold this title.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Advance HE reaccredits AKU, first in South Asia, East Africa


By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Aga Khan University (AKU) has become the first higher education institution in South Asia and East Africa to be recognized by Advance HE, a global body that strives to promote excellence in teaching and learning in higher education. 

The AKU President, Firoz Rasul, announced the University’s three-year reaccreditation with Advance HE while addressing the inaugural session of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Conference in Karachi. 

Advance HE, based in the United Kingdom, works with higher education institutions across the globe to benchmark teaching quality against the rigorous UK Professional Standards Framework, UKPSF. 

While talking about the importance of effective teaching and learning methodologies, President Rasul noted their role in engaging students and bringing excitement and stimulation into the classroom. 

This encourages students to be responsible for their own learning, he added. The keynote address was delivered by Debra Dawson, director of the Centre for Research on Teaching and Learning in Higher Education at Western University in Canada. 
She stressed that creating a teaching culture within universities that values quality teaching is important both to motivate faculty members and to create an environment that leads to student success. 

“Specifically, institutional teaching culture has been found to be related to student outcomes such as persistence, learning, and engagement,” she said. Setting up a network to enhance teaching quality in countries with no tradition of support for faculty is a long journey. 

Tashmin Khamis, associate vice provost of AKU’s Network of Quality, Teaching and Learning and principal fellow of the Higher Education Academy spoke about how it takes time to build and to find the people or institutions that can offer support. 

“Our partnership with Advance HE has enabled AKU faculty to access higher education teaching qualifications that are benchmarked against international best practice. I see HEA fellowships as an incentive to transform teaching, as well as a great opportunity to reward and recognise faculty for their commitment to teaching and learning,” she said. 

All universities in the UK are members of Advance HE as well as partners from 15 countries around the world and this gives us an unprecedented chance to be part of a larger community of practice, Khamis concluded. 

The two-day SOTL conference on Evidencing teaching practices for effective learning in higher education focused on efforts to improve student learning experiences in order to drive positive change in the higher education sector as a whole.

Monday, November 18, 2019

AMR poses challenge to Pakistan health system, economy


By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
Pakistan News & Features Services)

Up to 95 per cent of the population of Pakistan could be carrying bacteria that makes them resistant to life-saving antibiotics, according to the speakers at the inaugural session of the annual National Health Sciences Research Symposium (NHSRS) of the Aga Khan University (AKU) in Karachi. The theme of the 22nd three-day symposium is ‘Antimicrobial resistance: an opportunity to transform global health’.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) happens when microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites change when they are exposed to antimicrobial drugs. Microorganisms that develop AMR are sometimes referred to as superbugs. 

As a result, the medicines become ineffective and infections persist in the body, increasing the risk of spread to others. 

A recent UN report warned that the threat of AMR can be a global health crisis that could lead to 10 million deaths every year by 2050. Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world, which is expected to rise to fourth place by 2050.

If not managed timely, AMR may lead to a ‘health emergency-like situation’ that might have implications for the country’s health system as well as economy, they said. 

“Antibiotics have been a founding stone of modern medicine. Use of antimicrobials has enabled the implementation of novel treatment modalities such as cardiac bypass surgeries, joint replacements and bone marrow transplants. Management of infectious complications would not have been possible without antibiotics. Spread of resistant bugs is now taking us back in the pre-antibiotic era where advance medical interventions may become compromised,” Rumina Hasan, a professor of microbiology at AKU and chair of the 22nd NHSRS organising committee, remarked. 

“Antimicrobials have also been instrumental in the control of infections in farm animals and in crops, allowing an increase in agricultural output and providing food security. Emergence of antimicrobial resistance threatens this progress,” she added.

Realising that AMR puts the gains of the Millennium Development Goals at risk and jeopardizes achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, WHO instituted a global action plan to tackle AMR in the 68th World Health Assembly in 2015, which was endorsed by all countries including Pakistan. 

Zafar Mirza, Minister of State for Health, Government of Pakistan, and the chief guest on the occasion, expressed his government’s commitment to work with provinces and public and private key stakeholders on the implementation of the National Action Plan for AMR. 

“The misuse and overuse of antimicrobial medicines is fueling resistance worldwide and the Eastern Mediterranean Region is no exception. Drug-resistant infections are estimated to cause at least 700,000 deaths globally each year. Implementation of AMR surveillance, hospital infection prevention and control, and antimicrobial stewardship are extremely important measures to curtail the spread of resistant bugs,” Maha Talaat, WHO EMRO regional coordinator for infection prevention and control, and the keynote speaker, observed.

“Although AMR is a global problem, estimates suggest that 89 per cent of deaths related to AMR in 2050 will occur in Africa and Asia. The UK Government has set up the Fleming Fund to provide the much needed resources to better understand and address AMR. Such Coordinated global actions are required to minimise the emergence and spread of AMR,” Anthony Huszar, South East Asia Regional Coordinator, Fleming Fund, and the keynote speaker, pointed out. 

The AKU President, Firoz Rasul, Deans Adil Haider and David Arthur, and interim CEO of the Aga Khan University Hospital Shagufta Hassan also addressed the symposium and applauded the organisers and participants for highlighting the issue of AMR. 

The NHRS happens to be AKU’s annual ‘flagship’ event that focuses on a health sciences topic relevant to Pakistan and the region. The second and third days of the symposium will cover discussions on animal AMR, antimicrobial use surveillance, food safety, control of antibiotics quality in Pakistan, ‘Ignite’ and several other sessions.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Plea to empower volunteer nurses, physicians




By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The community-based palliative care can serve to be a cost-effective method to provide care to individuals undergoing serious illness. 

Training and empowering volunteer nurses and physicians can change how palliative care, a method of care and support of a patient’s well-being by ensuring their physical, social and psychological needs are met, is perceived in Pakistan, according to speakers at the 1st Palliative Care Symposium at Aga Khan University (AKU) which was held on the occasion of World Hospice and Palliative Care Day. 

An estimated 40 million people are in need of palliative care in the world and 78 percent of whom live in low and middle-income countries. In Pakistan, there are less 10 health facilities that deliver palliative care under the supervision of trained palliative specialists. 

The speakers at the symposium stressed the importance of palliative medicine and noted that it remains a low-priority issue in Pakistan 

They added that AKU’s School of Nursing and Midwifery has taken the lead in this field by introducing an elective course on palliative care to meet gaps in the national nursing curriculum. There is a need for increasing public awareness and formalising training to establish palliative care opportunities for homes and at the community level, they added 

The patients who receive early palliative care in the course of treatment of disease have to be given less-aggressive care towards the end of their life and have a longer survival rate since it significantly improves their quality of life and mood, according to Dr Ali Haider, an assistant professor of palliative medicine at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center USA. 

Differentiating between hospice and community-based care, speakers noted that while a hospice is a paid practice world-wide, training and volunteering nurses and individuals can be an affordable practice for families to enable better living of patients. 

The speakers at the event also highlighted the role of family physicians in providing holistic palliative care to patients with life-limiting illnesses owing to their accessibility to communities. Due to a physician’s familiarity with patient’s health history, they are able to advice on a multidimensional care model for the family. 

They also spoke about how palliative care is associated with patients suffering from cancer when in reality both patients and families can benefit from it for any illness that may shorten life. Some people also believe that it should be practiced when a doctor has given up on a patient and there is no hope. 

Another myth the speakers tackled was about children’s palliative care that it can only be offered in high-resourced settings when in reality, it can be provided in community health centres and in homes too. 

“Palliative care, on the flipside, ensures living life as fully as possible through compassionate, patient-centred care,” Dr Nasreen Saleem, a senior instructor on palliative care at AKU, remarked. 

The symposium was held in collaboration between the University’s departments of oncology, family medicine, paediatrics and child health and AKU’s School of Nursing and Midwifery. 

The one-day event marking the theme ‘My Care, My Right’ was attended by healthcare professionals, nursing leaders, social workers, health policy makers and medical education.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Pakistan’s unusual suicide issues highlighted


By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Married women and single men under the age of 30 in Pakistan are among the groups most likely to commit suicide, according to speakers at a panel session Wellness in the Workplace at Aga Khan University. 

The event was part of a week of sessions and themed activities aimed at spreading awareness of the importance of suicide prevention: the theme for World Mental Health Day 2019. 

The speakers noted that research showed that Pakistan’s highest-risk groups for suicide were different to those in other parts of the world. 

In the West, single men between the age of 50 and 60 are most likely to take their own lives. But in Pakistan, youth of working age, under the age of 30, are most likely to commit suicide which suggested that employers had a role to play in tackling the public health threat of suicide, which claimed about 800,000 lives a year globally, according to data from the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to global figures, one person dies by suicide every 40 seconds with three out of four suicides occurring in low and middle income countries. 

The worthy speakers reckoned that companies needed to establish a culture where people could speak about their challenges and daily stresses without the fear of being judged. 

The forums where employees can openly share their concerns promote wellness in the workplace and reduce the threat of issues such as anxiety and burnout. 

Shagufta Hassan, interim CEO of Aga Khan University Hospital, added that companies should launch professional mentorship programmes so that vulnerable youth had someone they could seek advice from. 

She also highlighted the importance of offices having counselling services where employees facing challenges could access additional help or be referred to professionals. 

Speaking at the event, Atiya Naqvi, a clinical psychologist, noted the importance of friends and family in supporting those going through a difficult time, adding that the mere act of listening to a person’s problems helps reduce anxiety. She also spoke of the need to monitor one’s thought patterns and to communicate one’s concerns with those around them. 

Dr Ayesha Mian, chair of the Department of Psychiatry at AKU, noted that hopelessness and despair are feelings that often exist in people with suicidal ideation. 

She noted that being unable to cope with financial pressures, academic stresses, dysfunctional relationships and bullying were some of the determinants known to lead to passive or active thoughts of suicide. 

“There is a myth that only those patients with mental health disorders will commit suicide. While more often than not, patients who die of suicide have a diagnosed psychiatric illness, there may be those who do not have a mental health disorder. We know that for every one person who takes their life there are ten people actively planning suicide and a 100 with suicidal ideation, which is why prevention efforts are so vital,” Dr Ayesha remarked. 

She also spoke about how compassionate words and actions can help ease feelings of despondency that may lead to pervasive feelings of hopelessness and suicidality in those vulnerable. 

“Talking about suicide doesn’t promote suicide. We often underestimate the importance of listening and acting with compassion even though they help protect against a number of self-harming actions. It is important to listen with sincerity and without fear; if you don’t know what to do, ask the person how would you like me to help,” she advised. 

Over the course of the week, students and staff at the University participated in support group sessions and wellness camps designed to promote mental wellbeing. Students also held a Kindness Walk and organized a Wall of Compassion to showcase the importance of empathy and kindness in preventing harmful thoughts and actions.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Think-thank launched at AKU


By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The health professionals at Aga Khan University have launched a new think tank, AKUPI-NCD, in partnership with experts from a variety of sectors, in order to recommend novel, integrated approaches to address the threat of non-communicable diseases (NCDs): the leading cause of death in the country.

Approximately 80 million Pakistanis are living with one or more NCDs, a set of chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, cancer, diabetes, conditions caused by tobacco abuse, and mental disorders, that are predominantly caused by poor lifestyle choices and environmental risk factors such as pollution and urbanization. 

Despite being the country’s top cause of death and the leading cause of poor quality of life, the country continues to pursue a fragmented approach with little coordination among stakeholders, experts said. Pakistan is far from meeting the targets set by the WHO for the National Systems Response for NCDs. 

“NCDs aren’t a problem for the healthcare sector alone. These diseases have complex causes and long-lasting consequences and their costs to society extend far beyond lost productivity and stunted economic growth. That’s because of the cost of treating advanced cases of NCDs drive many families into poverty and makes them dependent on the government or other actors in society,” AKU’s Professor Zainab Samad, chair of the initiative, remarked.

The demographics of today’s Pakistan mean that NCDs are a particularly pressing problem. Speakers noted that the majority of Pakistan’s population is under the age of 30 and warned that the coming decades could see a rising burden of these illnesses in an aging population. 

“NCDs are silent killers which continue to go unnoticed. The Airblue crash of 2010 claimed 125 lives and the public attention to the tragedy resulted in immediate regulatory action. NCDs cause 14 times as many deaths every day yet there is an absence of coordinated action from government and civil society on the issue,” Professor Wasay remarked. 

The think tank’s inaugural meeting brought together officials from the insurance, market research, non-profit, banking and public sector to discuss the creation of an integrated plan. The presence of this plan would demonstrate the think tank’s long-term vision and enable stakeholders to coordinate their efforts, speakers noted. 

AKU’s Professor Wasay, AKUPI-NCD co-chair, called on stakeholders to consider partnering on initiatives in three areas: education and training, policy advocacy and awareness, and research. 

“NCDs are preventable. Efforts to forestall their onset must begin at home at an early age. As a starting point, he noted that advocacy measures should revolve around lifestyle modification campaigns in which media organizations and schools can help disseminate information about the risks posed by tobacco use, a sedentary lifestyle and poor eating habits," he said.

The experts noted that education and training initiatives can make an immediate impact in the area hypertension as the condition often goes undiagnosed until it leads to life-threatening complications such as stroke. 

Commenting on research initiatives, Professor Wasay added that market research firms, insurance companies and public sector institutions all have information that can be analyzed to determine the most effective course of action for each type of NCD. 

Besides pooling together data, experts noted that the establishment of a central data point would advance the study of the public health impact of NCDs. 

There were a number of other experts at the event from the finance, insurance, public health and data science industries as well as representatives from the National Institute of Health and Ministry of National Health Services and Regulation.

Monday, August 5, 2019

AKU ranks among top global universities


By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

In global rankings, the Aga Khan University (AKU) has been ranked among the top 100 universities for clinical medicine and among the top 200 for public health internationally in the latest Shanghai Ranking’s Global Ranking of Academic Subjects 2019 released by the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU).

The AKU is the only university in Pakistan ranked in clinical medicine and public health in the top 500 universities. 

In clinical medicine, the AKU is in the group of universities ranked between 76th and 100th, a marked improvement from its 2018 position in the 151–200 group. 

The university is ranked 151–200 in the public health group. 

“This international ranking is recognition of the AKU as a role model for health and education in the developing world. Even places where resources are scarce, we aim to meet the global quality standards and demonstrate that excellence is a powerful force for transformation,” Firoz Rasul, President, AKU, stated. 

The Shanghai Ranking Consultancy is a fully independent organization dedicated to research on higher education intelligence and consultation. It has been ARWU’s official publisher since 2009. 

This year, Shanghai Ranking published its third round of subject rankings covering 54 subject areas. The ranking draws from Web of Science bibliometric data, InCites, and considers performance in five categories: publications, citations, top journal presence, international collaboration in publications and awards. 

An increase in papers published and indexed in major citation indices has improved AKU's ranking over the last three years. 

“Our clinical investigations are closely linked to teaching to innovate for better healthcare and to research for creating new knowledge. We take great pride in this ranking not only for ourselves but for Pakistan, and will work to use it as an opportunity to enhance clinical care and access to life-saving treatments in the country,” Dr Adil Haider, Dean of AKU’s Medical College, observed.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Sindh government rolls out typhoid conjugate vaccine


By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The children in the Lyari neighbourhood of Karachi, one of the areas worst-hit by the typhoid outbreak in Sindh, are receiving their first dose of the typhoid conjugate vaccine (TCV), the latest vaccine to be included in Pakistan’s routine immunization programme. 

The staff from Aga Khan University (AKU), working in partnership with the Sindh government, will inoculate over 100,000 infants and children between the ages of six months and 15 years by administering the vaccine at public and private sector schools and hospitals based in one of the city’s most densely populated towns. 

“This is the first step in a mass immunization campaign for Sindh. The vaccine is the most effective way to curb new cases and to protect children from a disease which is becoming increasingly expensive and difficult to treat,” Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho, Sindh Health minister, remarked. 

Pakistan is the first country among low-income nations eligible for funding from GAVI, a global, public-private partnership committed to increasing access to immunization to include TCV in its nationwide schedule of vaccines against 11 preventable diseases. 

The decision is in line with the country’s commitment to end outbreaks of water-borne and communicable diseases in its efforts to meet goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals. 

“Deaths and complications from typhoid were rare over the past 15 years but the ongoing outbreak has put an unprecedented number of children at risk,” Farah Qamar, an associate professor in paediatrics and child health at AKU, stated. 

“Efforts are underway to address the root cause of the outbreak failings in our water and sanitation system but in the meantime this vaccine represents the best way to save lives,” she added. 

Researchers from the AKU will analyze the data from the Lyari drive to understand factors determining the acceptability and efficacy of the vaccine which, in turn, will enable its successful rollout across the country from October 2019. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has disclosed that over 5,000 cases of XDR typhoid have been reported in the province to date. 

The scale of the outbreak led the Sindh government and private sector partners, such as the AKU and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, collaborating to launch an emergency vaccination drive in Hyderabad in January 2018. 

The faculty and staff at the AKU microbiology laboratory first detected the typhoid outbreak in blood culture tests from Hyderabad in October 2016. They collaborated with epidemiologists and infectious disease specialists from the University’s department of paediatrics to bring the matter to the attention of local government, the WHO, the US National Institutes of Health, the Sabin Vaccine Institute and the UK-based Wellcome Sanger Institute. 

Since then, the university’s researchers and its partners have collaborated on a number of studies to understand the genetic make-up of the typhoid strain, to ascertain risk factors for its geographic spread and to assess the safety and efficacy of TCV in an emergency outbreak situation. 

Data and policy implications stemming from these studies were shared with the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan and the federal government’s National Technical Advisory Group. 

This led to a successful application for funding from GAVI and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation resulting in the permanent inclusion of TCV in the country’s nationwide immunization programme, a win-win situation for stopping the spread of a preventable disease.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Policymakers commemorate breakthrough year for nursing, midwifery


By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The government of Pakistan has designated 2019 as the year of nursing and is working to enhance the role and voices of nurses and midwives in health policymaking, in recognition of the vital part they play in promoting universal healthcare and in defending women’s rights, the speakers at Aga Khan University’s School of Nursing and Midwifery (SONAM) observed.

The school brought together policymakers, senior academics and nursing leaders at an event to celebrate International Nurses Day and the International Day of the Midwife. 

In a message submitted ahead of the event, Sindh Minister for Health and Population Dr Azra Pechuho said: “The government is taking necessary steps to recognize nurses as equal partners in the healthcare system.” 

The provincial minister noted that nurses and midwives are already playing their part in providing quality healthcare to communities across the country and called on stakeholders to encourage and facilitate efforts to deepen their impact on the healthcare system.

The learned speakers at the event discussed the launch of new initiatives following President Dr Arif Alvi’s declaration and in light of Pakistan joining the global Nursing Now initiative. 

In his keynote speech, Shabbir Hussain, Director General Nursing for Sindh, highlighted the crucial partnership between nursing schools, hospitals and regulatory bodies in Pakistan in raising the image, status and role of nurses. 

“Nursing is emerging as one of the best professions in the healthcare sector and we are collectively making efforts to improve working conditions for our nurses and midwives to ensure that they can continue to provide quality healthcare services,” he said. 

The speakers also noted that besides encouraging investment in the nursing workforce and recruiting more nurses into leadership roles, the focus has to shift to research, capacity building and the implementation of best-practice. 

Dr David Arthur, Dean of AKU’s School of Nursing and Midwifery, reckoned that nurses now have a variety of career opportunities open to them. “Today’s nurses are seen as educators, researchers and counsellors in addition to working in different healthcare settings. They are also seeking specialization within nursing in various clinical areas, which further highlights their roles as front-line caregivers and strong patient advocates in all areas within a healthcare facility,” he remarked. 

Nurses have come a long way over the past few decades, are in a variety of leadership positions in the clinical and academic spheres, and stand ready to support the government’s efforts to achieve targets under the UN sustainable development goals, added Laila Cassum, a senior instructor at SONAM. 

The speeches were followed by a panel discussion on the challenges nurses and midwives face in public and private healthcare institutions. 

The panelists highlighted the need to increase the proportion of the healthcare budget allocated to the profession and called for more steps to recognize the contribution of nurses and midwives. 

Practicing nurses and midwives, students and nursing leaders from educational and healthcare institutions across Sindh were present at the event.