Associate Professor Shehla Zaidi played a key role in developing Pakistan’s new National Health Vision, which will guide health planning over the next decade.
Q: The National Health Vision is the first such document in 16 years. How important is it and what was your role?
A: It’s a landmark to have a vision agreed to by all provinces, reflecting input from numerous stakeholders and addressing the need for reforms across the system. My time was formally requested by the Ministry of Health, and I served as an unpaid technical advisor. I helped ensure that the process was widely consultative, with each province hosting a roundtable, rather than an Islamabad dominated exercise. Over six months, in consultation with the Ministry, I developed the framework that served as the basis for stakeholder discussions, led the discussions and wrote the text on the basis of the agreements forged in those discussions, with support from a team of consultants hired by the Ministry.
Q: What does the Vision mean for the health sector?
A: The Vision departs from the narrower focus on selected diseases and issues seen in previous national policy documents. It puts attention squarely on effective health governance, adequate and efficient financing, essential commodities and human resources. These are key issues that must be addressed in order to complete the unfinished maternal and child health and infectious disease agendas, as well as respond to the growing importance of non-communicable diseases.
Q: What’s next?
A: The Vision provides an overarching framework for provincial health policy development. It also provides a framework for consultatively setting national targets for ending hunger and malnutrition, and developing a process to meet them. So it can help us achieve a more unified approach that yields results, while still providing the provinces with control. At the same time, we need the federal government to play its part by establishing a federal-provincial forum that encourages coordination and helps the provinces learn from each other, a long-stated provincial demand.