LAHORE: Government should declare emergency in school health sector to get positive results from School Health Program (SHP). These views were expressed by health-education experts in a seminar titled “Evidence Generation and Advocacy for Institutionalisation of School Health Programme (SHP) in the Punjab,” organised by Nur Centre for Research and Policy (NCRP), on Thursday.
The NCRP conducted a survey in 38 schools of 8 districts to assess the impact of the government’ recent SHPs on students’ health, nutrition literacy and practices, and documented the prospects of implementation. Nur Foundation came together with the Health and Education Departments’ authorities and stakeholders in these districts with objective of school health and nutrition situation analysis in Punjab and barriers to institutionalisation of SHP.
According to findings, it is observed that 52% of girls and 42% of boys are absent from school due to ill-health.
Mostly selected schools have no proper facilities of clean drinking water, sanitary washrooms and no first aid arrangements. Parents and community members are generally unaware of the currently ongoing SHPs because they are not involved in any capacity. Finding shows; fever, headaches, earaches, toothaches, and stomach problems were common reasons for absenteeism, 20% girls and 22% boys had intestinal worm infection, low weight for age was found in 7% girls and 17% boys, inadequate drinking water arrangements in 31% and 41% boys’ schools, sanitary latrines absent from 27% girls’ and 22% boys’ school, no libraries in 50% girls’ and 41 % boys’ schools, awareness about ongoing SHP among principals and teachers is limited and they feel quite detached from the programme being implemented by the health sector.
The NCRP’s dissemination seminar acted as a forum to review and share the findings and challenges confronting Pakistan in improving the health and nutritional status of school going children.
The seminar was chaired by Advisor to Chief Minister Punjab on Health Khawaja Salman Rafiq, Parliamentary Secretary on Health Khawaja Imran Nazir, Member Standing committee for Health Punjab Mahwish Sultan, Parliamentary Secretary for Education Punjab, and MPAs Dr. Muraad Rass, Rana Munawar, Hussain Ghos Khan and DG Health Punjab, Dr. Zahid Pervaiz among others. The seminar had representation from key officials from the government as well as the private sector including NGOs/INGOs like UNICEF, UNCHR, WHO and corporate social representatives.
While addressing seminar, Advisor to Chief Minister Punjab on Health Khawaja Salman Rafiq said that government launched SHP in 33 districts to address the health, hygiene and nutrition issues faced by children at government schools. President, Nur Foundation Shahima Rehman said, “We are all Pakistan and are heading towards a health crisis that needs to be addressed now. These children are our future and their health should be a priority. Health impacts education and without education, our country cannot get out of this vicious cycle of poverty and increase its global competitiveness as well as promote human and economic development.”
CEO of Nur Foundation Dr. Haroon, stated, “Together we must sit down and discuss on how to carry things forward beyond research for implementation.” The study on SHP was undertaken with the aim to generate evidence to advocate the institutionalisation of the School Health Programme (SHP) in the Education System in Punjab, for enhancing education outcomes and promoting economic development in Punjab.
Talking about the programme Saba Sheikh said, "The burden needs to be shared between Education and Health. How do we have an impact? We need to have sound advocacy strategy in mind to convince policy makers and to have a practical impact. We need to act as watchdog when the programme is being implemented. You all are stakeholders and we need your support to advocate the institutionalization of the School Health Programme (SHP).”