Many patients who came to our primary care clinics suffered from ailments that could have been easily avoided by practices as simple as hand-washing. Minor illnesses like acidity or a superficial burn did not warrant a clinic visit; what was needed was awareness of treatments like antacids and ointments, or contraceptive measures such as condoms and emergency contraceptive pills.
A 2003 study in The Lancet showed that two-thirds of all child deaths could be prevented by low cost interventions such as breastfeeding, taking zinc and vitamin A or oral rehydration therapy. Other studies show that up to 70% of all diseases could be treated at the community level through basic curative services. With such measures, Pakistan’s abysmal infant mortality rate of 78 per 1000 live births and a recently-calculated maternal mortality rate of 276 per 100,000 live births – higher than neighbouring South Asian countries – could be significantly reduced.
Therefore ChildLife Foundation joined hands with BRAC Pakistan, a subsidiary of BRAC, the largest non-governmental development organisation in the world, to launch a preventive health programme. With the goal of educating the poor about preventive practices, empowering the community and, ultimately, reducing the influx of patients to its clinics, the programme focuses on:
- Hygiene and sanitation
- Mother and child healthcare
- Family planning
- Control and prevention of pneumonia, TB, malaria and HIV
- Maternal, neonatal and child health
ChildLife’s clinic in Shirin Jinnah Colony is at the centre of this pilot preventive programme, under which one Community Health Promoter (CHP) looks after 150 households, visiting each household at least once every month. For every 10 CHPs on the ground, there is one Community Health Worker, who monitors the CHPs, accompanies patients to referral centres and provides antenatal care. In Shirin Jinnah colony, BRAC and ChildLife have 40 CHPs reaching out to 6000 households. The aim is to replicate the Shirin Jinnah model in all the slum areas of Karachi to tackle issues like malnutrition, sanitation and hygiene, maternal care, and childhood diseases.