Aga Khan University has initiated a Rural Health Programme (RHP) to improve quality and coverage of health services in Thatta, Sindh.
The project, which started in August 2018, is a collaboration between department of community health sciences (CHS) and Sindh government aiming to improve the health system in the district through capacity building, health surveillance and targeted interventions.
“The project’s main function is to strengthen coordination and improve service delivery which will eventually improve process and health outcomes,” said Sameen Siddiqi, professor and chair of CHS and senior adviser to federal health minister. Professor Siddiqi was speaking at the dissemination seminar at AKU, in which experts shared details about their work in Thatta and what strategies are being put in place for the forthcoming year.
By empowering communities to improve access and quality of care in public and private healthcare facilities, RHP has organized health and development initiatives. Additionally, the programme plans to develop an evidence-informed rural health system encouraging research and practice for faculty and students of AKU.
Among many identified priorities of action for the district is capacity building of health planners and managers. So far, trainings on health planning have been conducted and attended by stakeholders of the Thatta district health office. Health monitoring and evaluation in addition to financial and human resource management are other areas where trainings and technical-capacity building will be led.
In the past few months, sessions were held in Thatta to make the community aware of critical health situations. Emphasis was laid on the significance of contacting a doctor and reaching a hospital in case of any emergency related to maternal and child care. For this, a maternal neonatal child health referral system in RHP villages has been set up that can help them access healthcare. To further explain how the referral works, volunteer ambulances for emergency referrals participated in various awareness session. Since the establishment of the initiative, at least 23 patients have been referred through this mechanism in the district.
The RHP team has also conducted water quality tests. They found that 50 per cent of the water sources had unsafe levels of total dissolved solvents (TDS), making it unfit for consumption. To make it known to people as to which sources were not safe, water pumps were marked red so people would avoid consuming water from them.
Lauding the efforts of RHP team at the seminar, President Firoz Rasul said, “The project is in line with the university’s founding principles of supporting the communities around us.”
Dean, Medical College, Dr Adil Haider encouraged all other departments of AKU to work with CHS in supporting the communities in Thatta and Matiari and build public health practice in areas accessible to AKU.