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PR No.16 Universal Health Coverage is priority says Health Minister Islamabad: August 8, 2018

Federal Minister for National Health Services, Regulations & Coordination said that Pakistan is the fifth most populous country in the world with an estimated population of over 213 million. Pakistan aims to successfully implement the agenda of every individual’s right to physical wellbeing, i.e., overall health, in order to ensure economic and social development of its people. Pakistan is also committed to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals agenda and Universal Health Coverage (UHC) while he was addressing Meeting on Developing National Universal Health Coverage Priority Benefits Package today in Islamabad. Minister said Main objective of UHC is the quality of essential package of health services to be comprehensive and accessible by all and to improve the health of those receiving the services. Minister said the fragmented nature of today’s health system means that they are becoming increasingly unable to respond to the demands placed upon them. The focus on hospital-based, disease-based and self-contained curative care models undermine the ability of health system to provide universal, equitable, high quality and financially sustainable care. UHC will not be achieved without improvements in service delivery so that all people are able to access high quality health services that meet their needs and preferences. The strategy calls for reforms to reorient health services, shifting away from fragmented supply-oriented models, towards health services that put people and communities at their centre, and surrounds them with responsive services that are coordinated. Minister said in case of Pakistan, ‘Financial Health Protection Initiatives’ and ‘Family Practice Approach’ are strategic choices for the federal and provincial governments to meet the fundamental challenges faced by the health system in the country. Minister further added that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has given impetus to Universal Health Coverage as an overarching target to guide health systems transformations to achieve the health-specific and health-related Sustainable Development Goals targets. Specifically, SDG 3.8 calls for “achieving universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health care services, and access to safe, effective, quality, and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all”. Hence, the need for all countries to identify their ‘Health Benefits Package’ and ensure its accessibility for all. Considering the socio-economic diversity, the various stages of demographic and epidemiological transitions, and the multiple acute and chronic emergencies characterizing countries of our region, we need to look beyond one-size-fit-all regional approach to ‘Health Benefits Package’. Minister expressed his pleasure that this meeting is taking stock of the work done globally and in the region, to share experience, good practices and lessons learnt in designing and delivering a Universal Health Coverage Priority Benefit Package while considering national imperatives. The deliberations shall, I feel confident, provide policymakers with up-to-date knowledge in benefit packages design. The most critical part of the work needed by countries is on priority setting, financial risk protection, and providing a publicly financed package of essential health services. And this is exactly the focus of the discussion in this meeting. Minister said it is a matter of satisfaction that Pakistan is taking a lead in this initiative with particular emphasis on building capacity, priority setting and financial risk protection. With the devolution of health as a provincial responsibility, improving access to essential services, without exposing people to financial hardship, is a major challenge to provincial governments, and, in this respect, the engagement of provincial health officials is very much welcome. Minister said We are fully committed to work closely with WHO and other stakeholders to fully benefit from piloting of translation of DCP-3 into Essential Health Package in Pakistan. Minister appreciated the support of World Health Organization in improving access to essential health services and development of health benefit packages as well as building capacity in financial risk protection and priority setting, which is strongly acknowledged.

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