The World Health Organization (WHO) has opened a collaborating centre on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) at the Aga Khan University Medical College’s Department of Community Health Sciences (CHS).
This is the first such centre specific to SRHR in Pakistan and the fourth in general in the country.
The partnership incorporates AKU into a network of over 800 WHO collaborating centres in over 80 member states working with the global health body on areas such as nursing, occupational
Dr Sarah Saleem, a professor of population and reproductive health at AKU, will lead the centre and provide strategic support in implementing WHO's mandated work and programme objectives, and develop and strengthen institutional capacity in the 22 countries and territories within the EMRO (Eastern Mediterranean) region.
She is also the principal investigator for the Eastern Mediterranean hub for research capacity strengthening, based within AKU’s CHS Department, which was initiated in 2019 and has trained over 200 participants in sexual and reproductive health research, including gender-based violence.
“This enables so many people to take their first steps towards quality research, policy and development in SRHR. We are contributing to a cause, a country and a region,” said Dr Saleem.
The collaboration aims to provide technical input and expertise on WHO’s repository of SRHR evidence, guidelines and training resources; to assist WHO in building national and regional capacity on sexual and reproductive health through training on SRHR; and to support WHO in conducting collaborative research, under WHO's leadership, on SRHR at the regional level.
The team is in the process of forming a virtual network of institutions within EMRO to discuss their needs and share knowledge. The team is already developing an open-access SRHR repository housed within the AKU library. This project is led by Dr Peter Gatiti, AKU Associate Vice Provost and University Librarian, and it will serve as a region-specific one-stop rich resource for scientists, researchers and policymakers.
WHO collaborating centres are institutions such as research institutes, parts of universities or academies, designated by the director-general to carry out activities in support of the organization's programmes.
WHO gains access to top centres worldwide and the institutional capacity to ensure the scientific validity of global health work. Conversely, designation as a WHO collaborating centre provides institutions with enhanced visibility and recognition by national authorities, calling public attention to the health issues on which they work.
Dr Farina Abrejo, a senior instructor, is the co-principal investigator at the centre. AKU's School of Nursing and Midwifery is also working with the centre, represented by Dr Saleema Gulzar.