A celebrated expert on healthcare, and a winner of many prestigious awards, Prof Dr AFM Rahul Haque, Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Bangladesh, talks to Shally Makin, about the government initiatives that have revolutionised primary healthcare in Bangladesh
It is the policy of Bangladesh government to ensure that basic health services are available to the entire population, particularly the under-served population in rural areas. Easy availability of primary healthcare is of utmost importance when it comes to improving the health of the common man. The health indicators show that in Bangladesh, there has been improvement in life expectancy, recurrence of diseases have been curbed.
Bangladesh has been awarded by United Nations for reducing child mortality rate by nearly two-thirds. Currently the child mortality rate in Bangladesh is around 2 percent. The death rate for neonatal tetanus has come down by over 90 percent in just over a decade. Mother and child health programmes have been in the priority list of government. There has also been improvement in the government’s financial allocation for health.
Government’s commitment and support for a range of partnerships have led to a massive increase in tetanus toxoid immunisation coverage among women of childbearing age. This ensures that both mothers and babies are protected against tetanus infection. The main reason for the rise in life expectancy is the decline in infant and child mortality due to the successful implementation of the immunisation programmes, and of the various disease control programmes. The estimated adult HIV prevalence rate today is only 0.08 percent with just 445 new AIDS cases found last year.
Various programmes have been initiated for improving the nutrition and family planning services in the country. We have many community clinics, which are manned by three trained technicians and doctors to provide free medication to around 6000 villagers in the country. The roles of the individuals, families and communities are emphasised in the intensified action programme for PHC implementation, which involves decentralised system of planning. ICT has played a vital role in creating systems in rural areas through which data can be transferred in seconds to technicians and doctors about various diseases. Most of the network is developed through mobile connectivity and all the district hospitals are equipped with telephone facility and broadband connectivity.
We are trying to bring health benefits to every pregnant number and we have had considerable success in that.
The government has plans to strengthen the HMIS through training, and also by developing and designing data collection tools and establishment of information networks. Bangladesh Health department looks forward to PPP initiatives as the government believes that it can prove better health services for the country in terms of well built infrastructure of hospitals, increased connectivity and better technology. Privatisation of medical care at the tertiary level, on a selective basis, is also being considered.
The people in the country are very excited and happy to know that they will be able to consult specialists through systems like telemedicine and mHealth.