Stakeholder engagement crucial for pneumonia control
Islamabad : Pneumonia continues to be one of the leading killers of children under five globally, with one child dying of the disease every 30 seconds. In Pakistan, around 14% of children die due to pneumonia—a scenario which has remained unchanged for the past two decades. While pneumonia remains neglected at the policy level, making it imperative for the government to generate high-quality evidence base so that scalable solutions can be devised to decrease the burden of disease, stakeholder engagement and ownership is just as crucial.
Views to this effect echoed at a high-profile advocacy seminar was held here Friday, with Parliamentary Secretary for Health Dr. Nausheen Hamid, Principal Investigator of RESPIRE (NIHR Global Health Research Unit on Respiratory Health) Dr. Tabish Hazir, and CEO of the Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health Research Foundation (MNCHRN) Dr. Hana Mahmood prominent among the speakers. Funded by the UK’s National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and coordinated by the University of Edinburgh, RESPIRE is a global partnership which aims to reduce the impact and number of deaths caused by respiratory diseases in Asia.
Addressing the session, Dr. Nausheen Hamid emphasized the need to develop and translate into action, strategies and interventions based on evidence generated by institutions such as MNCHRN. “There is dire need to improve awareness about pneumonia which is a preventable disease because 38% of patients do not make it to the healthcare provider due to delayed care-seeking; to standardize pneumonia case management across healthcare providers; and to enforce strong monitoring,” she stated.
Dr. Tabish Hazir informed that MNCHRN is generating evidence at three levels of the healthcare system. At the community level, researchers are exploring perceptions of caregivers on pneumonia and related requirement for care-seeking. This will be followed by an investigation on use of mobile health technology to aid the community in prevention of pneumonia through Lady Health Workers. Another project is identifying current pneumonia management practices being followed by healthcare professionals at the LHW, Basic Health Unit, Rural Health Centre and practitioner levels (both public and private). A third project is aimed at policy level, evaluating the pneumonia related policy environment. Data will be presented to relevant government departments to re-visit the process of policy making regarding pneumonia control strategies in Pakistan.
Dr Hana Mahmood highlighted how MNCHRN is contributing towards improvement in respiratory illnesses-related deaths by being a member of RESPIRE. She said, RESPIRE aims to reduce overall deaths due to respiratory illnesses through three platforms—stakeholder engagement, capacity-building of members, and data science/data management so that evidence is translated into action. “RESPIRE is working on two programmes—programme 1 focuses on illnesses with sudden onset like pneumonia and bronchitis while programme 2 focuses on longstanding illnesses such as asthma, COPD, TB, and lung cancer,” she added.
Dr Rai Asghar, Head of Department, Rawalpindi Medical University, discussed the way forward, with a focus on preventive aspects such as immunization and breastfeeding. Earlier on, Dr. Amira Khan, Technical advisor to MNCHRN, presented an overview on what the causes, signs and symptoms, and prevention of pneumonia.