Community health has been high on the agenda of the Aga Khan University since the establishment of the University Hospital and the Medical College in the mid-1980s and Community Health Sciences [CHS] Department has been regarded as a cornerstone for fulfilling this mandate. Community health and development is fully aligned with the vision of the University and the wisdom of its founding fathers. Over the last three decades CHS has made progress in terms of establishing educational programs, conducting research, and in establishing itself as an academic leader in public health in Pakistan.
CHS has been undergoing a reformative process to better organize and respond to the global and national public health priorities and to reinforce the intent of embracing community health as a top priority for the Aga Khan University. As of the year 2018 CHS has been reorganized into five Units – Epidemiology and Biostatistics; Health Policy and Management; Population and Reproductive Health; Environmental and Occupational Health and Injuries; and Non-Communicable Diseases and Mental Health. The purpose is to ensure that the efforts of CHS are well directed and that overtime it develops expertise in specialized areas to respond to the challenges of global and local public health.
CHS has a dynamic faculty of almost 40, supported by 25 administrative staff and another 100 that are engaged in various research activities of the Department, and are committed to realizing the vision of CHS – to improve population health by creating new knowledge; translating knowledge to influence policies and practice; developing academics, practitioners and leaders in public health; and engaging communities.
The faculty is heavily engaged in undergraduate, graduate, postgraduate and continuing educational and training programs. In addition, CHS’s role and contribution in the Population and Public Health track of the AKU-wide doctoral program is being enhanced. The training programs are being reviewed to update curriculum and competencies, while improving teaching methods that are relevant and in accordance with the level of learners.
Research to generate, synthesize and disseminate evidence and translate into knowledge in public health is at the heart of its work and CHS has successfully submitted proposals for research grants, published in reputed journals, and used research results to inform policy and practice. A more strategic approach to health research in CHS is presently being formulated. Currently, the Department has 23 grants worth USD 8.21 million and many more are in the pipeline.
Public health practice is receiving increasing attention and CHS is committed to strengthening its urban and rural field sites to support under- and graduate training programs, faculty research, service delivery and community development models. CHS has been engaging in policy dialogue with federal and provincial governments. This is being given greater impetus in addition to engaging with development partners at the international level.
CHS is committed to collaborate with Departments within AKU, institutions within the Aga Khan Development Network and with other academic institutions locally and globally. For CHS collaboration is essential for enhanced effectiveness, problem solving, innovation and life-long learning.
There is increasing recognition and desire in CHS to achieve the level of excellence that is reflected in its vision. The Departmental vision is being translated in a strategic roadmap that would guide the work of CHS for the next several years.
Committed leadership and working together will be the sine qua non for the success of CHS, which is epitomized in this African quote – If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together!!
Dr Sameen Siddiqi
MBBS; FCPS; MSc; DrMed; FFPH
Chair, Department of Community Health Sciences
The Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan.