Sunday, March 10, 2013

Pakistan Fares Marginally Better Than India in Health Study

Pakistan ranks in the middle among 15 similar countries compared by the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 (GBD 2010).  Other countries in this group include India, Djibouti, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Moldova, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Palestine, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Island, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Yemen.

Source: Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Study

 The study is  is a collaborative project of nearly 500 researchers in 50 countries led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington. The Institute describes it as " the largest systematic scientific effort in history to quantify levels and trends of health loss due to diseases, injuries, and risk factors. GBD serves as a global public good to inform evidence-based policymaking and health systems design".

In terms of the number of years of life lost (YLLs) due to premature death in Pakistan, the study found that lower respiratory infections, neonatal encephalopathy (birth asphyxia and birth trauma), and diarrheal diseases were the highest ranking causes in 2010. Of the 25 most important causes of burden, as measured by disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), diarrheal diseases showed the largest decrease, falling by 35% from 1990 to 2010. The leading risk factor in Pakistan is household air pollution from solid fuels. Interpersonal violence, including crime and terrorism, is ranked 20th on a list of  71 causes of premature mortality in Pakistan.

Leading Mortality Causes in Pakistan

Recent research shows that there are potentially far reaching negative consequences for nations carrying high levels of disease burdens causing lower average intelligence among their current and future generations.

World IQ Map

Published by the University of New Mexico and reported by Newsweek, new research shows that there is a link between lower IQs and prevalence of infectious diseases. Comparing data on national “disease burdens” (life years lost due to infectious diseases or DALYs) with average intelligence scores, the authors found a striking inverse correlation—around 67 percent. They also found that the cognitive ability is rising in some countries than in others, and IQ scores have risen as nations develop—a phenomenon known as the “Flynn effect.”

According to the UNM study's author Christopher Eppig and his colleagues, the human brain is the “most costly organ in the human body.” The Newsweek article adds that the "brainpower gobbles up close to 90 percent of a newborn’s energy. It stands to reason, then, that if something interferes with energy intake while the brain is growing, the impact could be serious and longlasting. And for vast swaths of the globe, the biggest threat to a child’s body—and hence brain—is parasitic infection. These illnesses threaten brain development in several ways. They can directly attack live tissue, which the body must then strain to replace. They can invade the digestive tract and block nutritional uptake. They can hijack the body’s cells for their own reproduction. And then there’s the energy diverted to the immune system to fight the infection. Out of all the parasites, the diarrheal ones may be the gravest threat—they can prevent the body from getting any nutrients at all".

Looking at the situation in South Asia, it appears from the WHO data that Pakistan is doing a bit better than India in 12 out of 14 disease groups ranging from diarrhea to heart disease to intentional injuries, and it is equal for the remaining two (Malaria and Asthma).

Another detailed WHO report on World Health Statistics for 2010 assesses and compares its member nations on the basis of nine criteria including mortality and burden of disease, cause-specific mortality, selected infectious diseases, health service coverage, risk factors, health workforce-infrastructure, health expenditures and demographic and socioeconomic statistics. It shows that both India and Pakistan have some serious challenges to overcome to have any chance of meeting health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs 4, 5 and 6).

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

India and Pakistan Suffer Heavy Disease Burdens 

India and Pakistan Off Track, Off Target on Sanitation

Pak Lady Health Workers "Best in the World"

India's Air Most Toxic in the World

Infectious Diseases Kill Millions in South Asia

WHO Says Pakistan On Track to be Polio Free


Iqbal Singh said...

In the Human Development Report of 2013, the Health Index for India is 0.722 edging out Pakistan at 0.721. I believe, historically, Pakistan was ahead of India but no longer.

Riaz Haq said...

An excerpt from the HDR 2013 report summary mentioning Pakistan is as follows:

More than four-fifths of these developing countries increased their trade to output ratio between 1990 and 2012. Among the exceptions in the subgroup that also made substantial improvement in HDI value are Indonesia, Pakistan and Venezuela, three large countries that are considered global players in world markets, exporting or importing from at least 80 economies. Two smaller countries whose trade
to output ratio declined (Mauritius and Panama) continue to trade at levels much higher than would be expected for countries at comparable income levels.

Here's a Business Standard report on HDI 2013 in South Asia:

Of 187 countries, India's Human Development Index (HDI), essentially a composite measure of health, education and income, rank stands at 136, on a par with Africa's Equatorial Guinea and just above Cambodia and Laos in Southeast Asia. Even over a longer period (between 2000 and 2012), it registered average annual HDI growth of 1.50 per cent, lower than Pakistan's (1.74 per cent).

Viewed in the context of the BRICs grouping (Brazil, Russia, India and China), India's standing is much below its peers - China is ranked 101st, Russia 55th and Brazil 85th. In fact, India remains squarely stuck at the bottom end of the second-lowest category in the report -Medium Human Development - even as neighbour Sri Lanka (99) moves a step higher towards becoming a "high human development" nation.

A closer look at India's performance reveals more inadequacies, especially in education. Though the country's life expectancy at birth, mean years of schooling and per capita GNI are comparable to peers, India's "expected years of schooling" is significantly below others, including Vietnam, Bhutan and even Swaziland.

Gender inequality
India is no easy country for women. The Human Development Report's Gender Inequality Index, which assesses gender-based inequalities based on reproductive health, empowerment and economic activity, ranks India 132nd out of 148 countries, below Bangladesh (111) and Pakistan (123).

"26.6 per cent of adult women have a secondary or higher level of education, compared to 50.4 per cent of their male counterparts (in India)," said an explanatory note. "Female participation in the labour market is 29 per cent, compared with 80.7 per cent for men."

Difficult future?
Though the report recognises key initiatives undertaken in India in recent years - particularly reforms in the education system, the direct cash transfer programme, a rise in social sector spending, public-private-partnerships across sectors and growing connectivity -vital concerns remain.

"India has the most projected child deaths over 2010-2015, about 7.9 million, accounting for nearly half the deaths among children under five in Asia," the report said. "China has more people than India, but is projected to have less than a quarter (1.7 million) the number of child deaths over 2010-2015."

India also has to contend with a substantial, uneducated population, possibly partly counteracting the country's feted demographic dividend. "Despite the recent expansion in basic schooling and impressive growth in better educated Indians, the proportion of the adult population with no education will decline only slowly," the report predicted.

"Even under an optimistic fast-track scenario, which assumes education expansion similar to Korea's, India's education distribution in 2050 will still be highly unequal, with a sizeable group of uneducated (mostly elderly) adults."

Riaz Haq said...

Mahesh: "The title of your blog is about health being marginally being better in Pakistan but @ Singh indicates that has changed. I think both countries need to improve but your response seems out on left field."

The GBD is a comprehensive and focused study dealing with burdens of disease in each country. I trust it as more reliable than a single composite figure as health index offered by HDR. Read the two to get a sense of it yourself.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Daily Times on more midwives for Pakistan:

Speakers at the second annual conference on Maternal and Newborn Health Programme have stressed the importance of research-based evidence to improve policies and practices related to maternal and newborn health in Pakistan.

The conference was held on Thursday, with the theme ‘Bridging the Gap – Evidence for Policy and Practice’. Findings and lessons from projects funded by Research & Advocacy Fund (RAF) were presented. Sessions focussed on the cost and financing of maternal and newborn health in Pakistan, socio-economic and cultural factors affecting maternal and newborn health and engaging with civil society to improve health outcomes.

Delegates from both the public and private sector, including provincial secretaries and director generals of health and heads of various national and international NGOs attended the event.

Planning Commission of Pakistan’s deputy chairperson, Dr. Nadeem ul Haq hoped the commission will learn from the research findings from RAF work.

Peter Upton, Director British Council, Desmond Whyms, Senior Health Advisor UKaid, Andrew Mackee, Acting Counsellor Development Cooperation AusAID and Sarah Hall, Programme Manager RAF also addressed the audience, stressing the respective commitments of their organisations to remain engaged in improving Pakistan’s health outcomes. The speakers highlighted the purpose of RAF, and stressed the need to share knowledge, information and strengthen collaboration between national, provincial and local public and private stakeholders to work together to improve maternal and newborn health in Pakistan.

“Women and children are the UK’s number one health priority in Pakistan” said Desmond Whyms. He claimed that by 2015, UK aid would have funded the training and deployment of 12,000 community based midwives, helped prevent the death of 3,600 mothers, delivered 350,000 more babies in hospitals and provided full immunisation for 280,000 children.\03\22\story_22-3-2013_pg11_3

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a story of how Lahore fought dengue outbreak in 2011:

..“No one expected this kind of political commitment,” said Qutbuddin Kakar, who oversees programmes to combat malaria and dengue in Pakistan for the World Health Organization (WHO). “In this part of the world, at least, we had not seen this kind of response before.”

The anticipated 1,000-plus deaths did not occur, and since then, dengue fever cases have dropped - 200 in the province (Punjab) last year, without any reported deaths.


The results they collect are processed on site by specially-designed Android based applications on their smartphones, and uploaded to a centralized dengue prevention centre.

There, analysts match the entomological data with reports from hospitals showing where dengue patients are being treated. Based on the findings, a team is sent to fumigate areas where aedes mosquitos seem to be breeding and infecting people, or to identify and remove sources of standing water.

The key season for infections comes with monsoon rains, when the aedes aegyptus and aedes albopictus mosquitoes, which can carry the virus, begin to appear.

Chronology of an outbreak

In August 2011 heavy monsoon rain dumped 13 inches in a week, leaving parts of Lahore with large bodies of standing water, and raising immediate concerns about disease.

By mid-October, the provincial government in Punjab reported that more than 11,000 dengue cases were recorded by the provincial government.

“It was an exponential increase in number, and it really frightened the government,” said Faran Naru, a consultant hired by the provincial government to tackle the problem. “And the issue was resonating in the media... so it created a panic in the public which had to be contained.”

Most people infected with dengue recovered on their own, said Naru, but once media outlets began reporting on the extent of the outbreak, thousands showed up at hospitals and laboratories to get tested.

An initial team of 70 entomologists conducted 12,000 spot-checks to track where aedes mosquitos were present. By mid-October, this data had been mapped, along with the locations of 11,000 reported dengue patients.

The results surprised the scientists. The worst affected areas were some of the wealthiest neighbourhoods of Lahore: Model Town, Race Course, Mozang, and Gulberg.

“I saw that in Model Town there is a big park, and in Race Course there are two of Lahore's biggest parks… and I believe lots of breeding was happening there and mosquitoes were leaving from there and infecting people,” said Naru.

The mosquitoes need fresh water to lay their eggs, and the large puddles in Lahore's biggest public parks proved to be ideal homes.

Another hotspot was the Mozang neighbourhood, home to one of Pakistan's largest graveyards. The 150-acre area was found to be a major breeding ground for mosquitos. Gravediggers had dug large pits to hold water, which they used to soften the dirt when digging.

“It's fresh water,” said Naur, “from the tap, and there were 70 pits, and all of those were infected, full of larvae.”

Back in the hospital, dengue patients were separated into special areas for treatment. The home of each dengue patient was fumigated, along with 12 surrounding houses, three in each direction.

Sanitation workers unclogged sewers and drains in an effort to clear areas of rainwater; and parks, gardens, and cemeteries were also sprayed. Thousands of Mosquitofish and Garden Carp - fish species known to attack mosquito larvae - were also released into ponds and ditch canals.

Within a few weeks, entomologists detected far fewer aedes mosquitoes, and the prevalence of dengue cases rapidly decreased.

Riaz Haq said...

India accounted for three of every five new leprosy cases worldwide last year, or 134,752 of the 232,857 cases reported globally, the Geneva-based WHO said in an Aug. 30 report. New cases have increased annually from an historic low of 126,800 in 2010, yet remain well below the 560,000 recorded as recently as 2000, thanks to the effectiveness of multidrug therapy.

Riaz Haq said...

How #Pakistan’s National Health Insurance Program Will Work via @WSJIndia

Pakistan’s government launched a national health insurance program for its poorest households Thursday, marking the start of the most-ambitious public health project in the country’s history.

The Prime Minister’s National Health Program will from Thursday cover families that make less than $2 a day through a gradual rollout. In the first phase, over 3 million families will get health insurance in 23 districts, with the ultimate aim to cover 22 million households across the country, officials said.

“This is another step towards the welfare state that we promised to create when we came into power,”said Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The Pakistani government already subsidizes health care to varying degrees in public hospitals, but officials acknowledge these facilities are unable to handle the patient load or achieve public health targets.

The government said earlier this year that it wouldn’t be able to meet the United Nation’s targets for child and maternal mortality rates that formed part of the Millennium Development Goals, which had a deadline of 2015. Critics have blamed Pakistan’s low health spending and inadequate management as key factors in the poor health provision. Between July 2014 and March 2015, Pakistan spent just 0.42% of its GDP on health. The U.S. government spends about 8.3% of GDP on healthcare.

The new insurance program will cover treatment at both public and private hospitals. Private hospitals that sign up will then be offered loans on easy terms to upgrade their facilities, officials said, without providing further details about interest rates and conditions.

Saira Afzal Tarar, minister of state for health Services, regulations and coordination, said most Pakistanis pay out of pocket for treatment. “There is treatment at government-run hospitals, but there are long lines. Those who don’t have a recommendation have to wait months for treatment,” Ms. Tarar said at the launch ceremony in Islamabad. “With this [health insurance] card, you’ll be able to go to the hospitals where you weren’t allowed to even go to the front door. Now, you’ll be treated there with dignity and respect.” Ms. Tarar said.

The national health program, with an initial funding of 9 billion Pakistani rupees ($86 million) will pay for the treatment of the types of illnesses identified by the government as critical: heart disease, diabetes and related illnesses, cancer, kidney and liver diseases, complications from infections like HIV and Hepatitis, road accidents, and burn injuries. Officials said coverage can be extended to other conditions considered life-threatening.

The government said Thursday that the program will be run in partnership with provincial governments, which will share the financial burden. Beneficiaries will receive insurance cards, after selection from a database of low-income Pakistanis set up in 2008 for a separate cash support program.

The coverage includes 50,000 rupees for general treatment, and 300,000 rupees for serious illnesses. Mr. Sharif said on Thursday that the government is making arrangements for an emergency fund that would extend coverage to 600,000 rupees for cases that require longer treatment.

Officials on Thursday didn’t provide specific timelines for the rollout of the next phase, which is expected to cover another 3.3 million households. The finance ministry said earlier this year that the program aims to cover 22 million families.

The finance ministry, quoting World Bank data and 2008 population estimates, said last year that if living on $2 a day is taken as the poverty line, over 60% of the population would fall in that category.

Riaz Haq said...

Among peers and neighbours India is performing the worst when it comes to the health of its citizens. Whether it is life expectancy, mortality due to all causes, under-five mortality or mortality among men and women between 15 and 49 years, on most counts, India ranks way below China, Brazil and Sri Lanka, just below Bangladesh and Nepal and in some cases even Pakistan.

This was revealed in the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors 2010 Study (GBD 2010), a collaborative project led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington. The study details the causes of death and disability — across age groups and genders — for 187 countries around the world.

Riaz Haq said...

How bad are most of #India's medical schools? Very, according to new reports. #highereducation #health #MEDICINE

In a country with the world's heaviest health burden, and highest rates of death from treatable diseases like diarrhea, tuberculosis and pneumonia, corruption at medical schools is an extremely pressing issue. The Indian Medical Association estimates that nearly half of those practicing medicine in the country do not have any formal training, but that many of those who claim to be qualified may actually not be.

a couple of recent studies and reports have cast serious doubts on the quality and ethics of the country's vast medical schooling system. The most recent revealed that more than half of those 579 didn't produce a single peer-reviewed research paper in over a decade (2005-2014), and that almost half of all papers were attributed to just 25 of those institutions.

The 2011 court case against a man, Balwant Arora, was one of the earlier indications of the massive levels of fraud. Arora brazenly admitted to issuing more than 50,000 fake medical degrees at around $100 apiece from his home, saying that each of the recipients had "some medical experience" and that he was doing it in service to a country that desperately needs more doctors. He had served four months in jail in 2010 for similar offences.

Private medical colleges have proliferated rapidly in India. When in 1980 there were around 100 public colleges and 11 private, the latter now outnumber the former by 215 to 183. Most are run by businessmen with no medical experience. Last January, the British Medical Journal found that many private medical colleges charged "capitation" fees, which are essentially compulsory donations required for admission. Jeetha D'Silva, who authored that report, wrote, "Except for a few who get into premier institutions of their choice purely on merit, many students face Hobson's choice — either pay capitation to secure admission at a college or give up on the dream of a medical degree."

The best public medical colleges have acceptance rates that are minuscule, even compared to Ivy League universities. Those colleges also tend to be the ones that produce the most research papers, as well as handle the most patients, which would seem to eliminate the possible excuse that overwhelming patient burdens prevent private colleges from producing valuable research.

The most productive medical college in India is also its largest public health institution, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, or AIIMS. In the 10-year period that Samiran Nundy and his colleagues examined, AIIMS published 11,300 research papers. For context, that is about a quarter of what Massachusetts General Hospital produced in the same time frame.

Riaz Haq said...

Global Burden of Disease Study: India at 154, lags behind Bangladesh
India also lags behind Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal but ahead of Pakistan

India's healthcare access and quality (HAQ) index has increased by 14.1, up from 30.7 in 1990 to 44.8 in 2015.

India (44.8) lags behind Sri Lanka (72.8), Bangladesh (51.7), Bhutan (52.7) and Nepal (50.8) and ranks above Pakistan (43.1) and Afghanistan (32.5).

The HAQ index, based on death rates for 32 diseases that can be avoided or effectively treated with proper medical care, also tracked progress in each nation compared to the benchmark year of 1990.

As per the study, India has performed poorly in tackling cases of tuberculosis, diabetes, chronic kidney diseases and rheumatic heart diseases.

The journal lists India among the biggest underachievers in Asia in health care access.

Switzerland topped the health index, followed by Sweden and Norway. China stood 82nd and Sri Lanka 73rd.

Among the developed nations, those who did not perform well include the US and the UK.

Riaz Haq said...

India world’s leprosy epicentre, despite its ‘elimination’ in 2005
Leprosy cases with severe deformities have increased by 50% increase in the past six years, indicating that many cases of the curable disease are being detected late. This rising trend of late diognosis is a cause for concern, especially after the government had declared leprosy had been eliminated from India in 2005. WHO norms say leprosy is eliminated if the prevalence of the disease is less than one case per 10,000 people.
According to the WHO, 60% of the 2,12,000 people detected with leprosy globally in 2015 were from India. WHO norms say leprosy is eliminated if the prevalence of the disease is less than one case per 10,000 population. In 2005, India achieved statistical elimination of leprosy with a national prevalence rate of 0.96. The prevalence rate declined to 0.66 in 2015-16. The next step is eradicating the disease, when not a single case is reported.

From the early 1960s on, Pfau helped lead the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre, transforming what was once a tiny makeshift dispensary into the hub for a system of 157 medical centers across the country, often in remote regions. With the partnership of the Pakistani government, Pfau developed the country's National Leprosy Control Programme and extended her efforts to include treatments for blindness and tuberculosis.

"We are like a Pakistani marriage," Pfau told the BBC of her occasionally strained collaboration with state officials. "It was an arranged marriage because it was necessary. We always and only fought with each other. But we never could go in for divorce because we had too many children."

But that partnership paid dividends. By 1996, the World Health Organization declared that leprosy had been controlled in Pakistan. The country's Dawn newspaper reports that last year, just 531 patients were in treatment for leprosy nationwide — down from 19,398 in the early 1980s.

For her efforts, Pfau earned the country's second-highest civilian honor, the Hilal-e-Imtiaz, in 1979. And she ultimately came to enjoy a celebrity in Pakistan on par with another nun known the world over for her work with the sick and the poor: Mother Teresa.

Riaz Haq said...

#WHO says #India leads the world in #tuberculosis with 423,000 deaths in 2016, followed by #Indonesia, #China, #Philippines and #Pakistan. #Diseases

For the second year in a row, India has landed the dubious distinction of being number one in the world for deaths from tuberculosis: 423,000 TB patients died in the year 2016. That's a third of the world's 1.4 million death toll.

India, of course, is not the only country where TB is a bane. In the 20th annual edition of the World Health Organization's global tuberculosis report, India's high volume of TB deaths is followed closely by Indonesia, China, the Philippines and Pakistan.

And TB is now the world's deadliest infectious disease, causing more annual deaths than HIV.

There is good news in the report. Globally, the rates of TB actually dropped in 2016. Even in India, there was a 12 percent drop in the number of deaths from TB compared with last year.

But the number of fresh TB cases in India only dropped three percent. In a population of 1.324 billion people, that translated to 2.7 million new cases in 2016.

Why is India bearing the brunt of these infections? And will the government be able to meet its goal of eliminating tuberculosis by 2025?

Riaz Haq said...

World #SnakeDay: #India is the #Snakebite Capital of the World with one million reported snakebites every year that kill ~60,000 and leave 1.5 lakh to 2 lakh #Indians permanently disabled. There's deteriorating quality, rising costs of antivenom. #disease

Poor waste management practices in our cities lead to a thriving rodent population, which in turn leads to a thriving population of snakes, albeit those of just commensal species such as cobras, rat snakes, Russell’s vipers and a few others. Still, the urban residents have little to fear when it comes to snakebites.

The story in rural India is vastly different — akin to two diametrically opposite ‘Indias’ within the same geographic boundary. Our country leads the world in snakebite figures, deaths from snakebite, and even cases of loss of life function.

Now, on the occasion of World Snake Day — observed annually on July 16 to increase awareness about the different species of snake all around the world — we attempt to understand the ground reality of human-snake conflict in India.

India records over 10 lakh snakebites every single year, which kill ~60,000 individuals and leave another 1.5 lakh to 2 lakh people with permanent disabilities. Studies have demonstrated that 94% of the victims are farmers, most of which belong to the most economically productive age groups.

These are staggering figures for a disease that the World Health Organisation (WHO) rightly calls a ‘Neglected Tropical Disease’. However, they are only an unfortunate fraction when compared to the number of snakes that are cruelly and brutally killed in conflict every day across the country.

One cannot help but wonder how India, one of the first countries in the world to develop antivenom over a century ago, remains frozen in time when it comes to safeguarding its citizens from snakebite. A myriad of problems surround the issue of human-snake conflict, and very few have attempted to address it, unlike the conflicts with mega-fauna such as tigers, elephants, bears and others.

Challenges that coil the human-snake conflict in India
The complexity of snakebite begins with the very fact that India, as a tropical country, is blessed with a diversity of snakes rivalled by few others. Among more than 300 species of snakes found in the country, nearly 50 are venomous, of which 18-20 are medically significant — meaning they can cause loss of life or morbidity in their victims if untreated.

Despite these many medically significant species, the lone antivenom available in India only targets the four most commonly found venomous species. This effectively ignores those parts of the country where none of these four species are found. Further, for nearly a decade now, it has been common knowledge that the venom of snakes, even within the same species, varies by region significantly enough to render the antivenom ineffective in several places.

Snake venom, produced at the lone source in the country, has been severely critiqued for its deteriorating quality and increasing costs by the antivenom manufacturers. In turn, herpetologists and venom research scientists have long been urging the pharmaceuticals to upgrade their own processes for the manufacture of antivenom, which will need significantly lower quantities of venom and at least addresses the issue of costs of venom.

Beyond all of these issues, the major hurdle at the hospital stage for the victim, is the lack of availability of antivenom, and the fact that snakebite is a medico-legal case which hoists far more bureaucratic hoops for a victim and their family to jump through. If one were to bypass these hurdles still, they are often faced with a medical fraternity that is so poorly equipped to treat snakebites that victims are often shuttled between hospitals, only for several to succumb in transit.

Riaz Haq said...

Lancet Study: Non-infectious diseases cause early death in Pakistan

Pakistan has considerable control over infectious diseases but now struggles against cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer as causes of early deaths, according to a new study published Thursday.

The Lancet Global Health, a prestigious British-based medical journal, reported that five non-communicable diseases — ischaemic heart disease, stroke, congenital defects, cirrhosis, and chronic kidney disease — were among the 10 leading causes of early deaths in the impoverished Islamic nation.

However, the journal said some of Pakistan’s work has resulted in an increase in life expectancy from 61.1 years to 65.9 over the past three decades. The change is due, it said, “to the reduction in communicable, maternal, neonatal, and nutritional diseases.” That’s still 7.6 years lower than the global average life expectancy, which increased over 30 years by 8% in women and 7% in men.

The study says “despite periods of political and economic turbulence since 1990, Pakistan has made positive strides in improving overall health outcomes at the population level and continues to seek innovative solutions to challenging health and health policy problems.”

The study, which was based on Pakistan’s health data from 1990 to 2019, has warned that non-communicable diseases will be the leading causes of death in Pakistan by 2040.

It said Pakistan will also continue to face infectious diseases.

“Pakistan urgently needs a single national nutrition policy, especially as climate change and the increased severity of drought, flood, and pestilence threatens food security,” said Dr. Zainab Samad, Professor and Chair of the Department of Medicine at Aga Khan University, one of the authors of the report.

“What these findings tell us is that Pakistan’s baseline before being hit by extreme flooding was already at some of the lowest levels around the globe,” said Dr. Ali Mokdad, Professor of Health Metrics Sciences at IHME. “Pakistan is in critical need of a more equitable investment in its health system and policy interventions to save lives and improve people’s health.”

The study said with a population approaching 225 million, “Pakistan is prone to the calamitous effects of climate change and natural disasters, including the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and catastrophic floods in 2010 and 2022, all of which have impacted major health policies and reform.”

It said the country’s major health challenges were compounded by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and last summer’s devastating flooding that killed 1,739 people and affected 33 million.

Researchers ask Pakistan to “address the burden of infectious disease and curb rising rates of non-communicable diseases.” Such priorities, they wrote, will help Pakistan move toward universal health coverage.”

The journal, considered one of the most prestigious scientific publications in the world, reported on Pakistan’s fragile healthcare system with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine. The study was a collaboration with a Karachi-based prestigious Aga Khan University and Pakistan’s health ministry.

The study also mentioned increasing pollution as one of the leading contributors to the overall disease burden in recent years. Pakistan’s cultural capital of Lahore was in the grip of smog on Thursday, causing respiratory diseases and infection in the eyes. Usually in winter, a thick cloud of smog envelops Lahore, which in 2021 earned it the title of the world’s most polluted city.