Minister for Health and Population Welfare, Sindh, Dr. Azra Fazal Pechuho held a meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) at EOC. Secretary and DG Health, Mr. Zulfiqar Shah, and Dr. Juman Bahoto, respectively, were also in attendance.
For this meeting, the NCDs that were included were cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, deworming, mental health, and Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The meeting was informed that preventive treatment was the most efficient for community health and also in terms of being cost-effective.
Minister for Health and Population Welfare, Dr. Azra Pechuho pointed out that in order to be truly preventative there must be a cancer registry in the province and the DG office should collect data from Civil Hospital, JPMC, SIUT, etc and get a more holistic view on cancer cases in Sindh.
The Minister also said that routine checkups are integral for early diagnosis and these should include the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls, annual pap smears, and mammography for women over 35, and increased awareness in the community regarding cancers is also necessary. She also proposed an increase in taxation on tobacco products and a 0 tolerance policy on gutka production, distribution, and consumption.
For other diseases such as hypertension and diabetes, Dr. Azra urged healthcare professionals in rural and urban areas to ask relevant and nuanced questions pertaining to diabetes such as the frequency of urination, drinking water, and dehydration (all symptoms of diabetes) instead of waiting till a patient complaints of an ulcer to do a screening for diabetes.
There should be a list of relevant questions that address diabetes that should be given to healthcare professionals at every level so that any abnormalities in normal bodily functions can be detected early.
Mental Health also needs to be made a priority in provincial healthcare and the Minister said that the community can be served if steps are undertaken to create a network of telehealth for mental health and that there should at least be a psychologist at the district level.
Dr. Azra also emphasized that postpartum depression is misunderstood, stigmatized, and not discussed both at urban and rural levels and that this needs to change – both the mother and the community at large must be made aware of this highly usual condition that is the result of natural hormonal balancing in a body after pregnancy. There are a variety of treatments available for postpartum depression that can be accessed by women of all backgrounds but the priority is to make people aware of this condition and also to encourage the community to be supportive of women during this time – especially her near and loved ones.
COPD is a growing concern in the country as air and water pollution further compromise the health of the people. For this, there needs to be monitoring and supervision of the environment which is an ongoing process that needs a legislative and social policy framework.