Home civil society activists Dr. Sania Nishtar, of Pakistan, to lead the WHO’s Global Commission

Dr. Sania Nishtar, of Pakistan, to lead the WHO’s Global Commission

Dr. Sania Nishtar
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News Analysis |

Dr. Sania Nishtar, from Pakistan, will lead a high-level global commission formed by World Health Organisation (WHO) on non-communicable diseases (NCDs). These diseases commonly include cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and respiratory diseases. In 2015, world leaders pledged to reduce premature deaths from NCDs by one third by 2030 as part of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Worldwide non-communicable deaths kill approximately 40 million people each year, accounting for 70% of all deaths. Around 15 million of those deaths are people aged between 30 and 69. Low-middle income countries are particularly affected by NCDs with over 80% of all deaths due to NCDs.

The commission will tackle the non-communicable diseases in the lower-middle income countries. Dr. Nishtar in her new role is expected to identify innovative ways to eradicate non-communicable diseases.

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The decision to appoint Dr. Nishtar was taken in the 64th session of the Regional Committee for Eastern Meditteranean. The announcement in the meeting was made by the WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom.

Dr. Adhanom in his speech expressed his keenness for bringing on board health specialists from around the world to support the cause of commission.

He also mentioned that he was particularly pleased to engage with Dr. Nishtar in this programme. He thinks that she would bring in much-needed credibility, knowledge, and commitment to this effort.

Dr. Nishtar has been associated with the international organization since years. Earlier she was appointed as the co-chair of the WHO Commission on ‘Ending Childhood Obesity’.

Dr. Nishtar has also served as Pakistan’s Federal Minister in 2013 caretaker government, responsible for issues including health, Science and Information technology. Earlier this year, she was also a finalist for the WHO Director-General appointment.

The WHO Commission’s efforts will help the world to direct its efforts in achieving the objective of ending premature deaths by NCDs. This goal is also part of UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The WHO commission will primarily focus on NCDs, such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes and respiratory diseases.

The activities of the commission will be carried out at different tiers. From initiating awareness campaigns in lower-middle income countries, the commission will provide assistance to the health sectors in devising realistic policies to eradicate the diseases.

The commission also plans to extend its efforts in tackling the critical mental health issues and impacts of injuries and violence.

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What can be achieved by Pakistan? 

Death rates from NCDs are very high in the lower-middle income countries. Pakistan can draw adequate support from the commission for its effective health policies implementation.

Pakistan is listed among the countries where non-communicable diseases are counted as the major factors of deaths.

Every year, approximately, 52% of males and 53% of females above the age of 70 die of NCDs in Pakistan.

Treatments needed for such diseases are expensive. More than half of the population in Pakistan falls in the bracket of lower to middle income. Thus the treatments and life-saving drugs are unaffordable for the majority of the population.

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Government subsidies too for the health sector have declined after it was transferred to provincial governments under the 18th Amendment in 2010.

Moreover, 20% of the population in Pakistan is facing acute food insecurity. People have limited incomes in hand, hence more expenditure is allocated for meeting the food needs of the whole family.

Previously government intervention in the form of health subsidy was essential to help people get some help on health.


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