Family medicine key to primary healthcare: HEC head (Dawn (Pakistan))

Punjab Higher Education Commission (HEC) Chairman Prof Dr Nizamuddin said that as the country struggles to improve healthcare delivery, it is clear that primary care providers, especially family physicians, are key to a more effective system.
Inaugurating an international symposium on Transforming Healthcare Through Education, Training and Research in Family Medicine here at the University of Health Sciences (UHS) on Friday, Prof Nizamuddin said general practice or family medicine was the cornerstone of primary healthcare.
He maintained that family physicians integrated biological, clinical, social and behavioral sciences to provide continuing and comprehensive healthcare.
“Unlike specialists, family medicine encompasses all ages, sexes, each organ system, and every disease entity. Family physicians also pay special attention to their patients lives within the context of family and the community,” he added.
The Punjab HEC chairman emphasised the need for collecting fresh data on health and promoting research in public health. He also called for revamping community medicine departments in medical colleges to promote preventive care concepts.
Former dean of postgraduate medical education at Cambridge University, Prof John Biggs, said family medicine departments should be established in medical colleges and a separate cadre of teachers of family medicine be developed as per the direction of the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council. He quoted researchers stating that primary healthcare services in Pakistan, particularly in rural areas, were in dismal state.
“If quality of care is not high on agenda, a quality culture is not possible,” Prof Biggs said, recommending that an advisory group on family medicine be established that worked with the government on raising quality of standards in primary care.
He also said institutions such as UHS would have to play a role in training family physicians and there should be an agreement on a national curriculum, standards and assessment in this regard.
A distinguished professor at King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Prof Riaz Qureshi, said research showed that countries which emphasised on primary care and family medicine had better health outcomes at lower costs.
He said that in the UK, in case of common illness, 75pc people resorted to self-care, 22.5pc consulted family physicians and 2.5pc went to hospitals.
UHS Vice-Chancellor retired Maj-Gen Prof Muhammad Aslam emphasised on the need for learning lessons from the past and making collective efforts for the provision of training and education of family physicians.
UHS Family Medicine Departments head and the organising secretary of the symposium, Dr Usman Jawad, said the UHS aimed at bringing all stakeholders of family medicine in Pakistan under one roof to discuss various aspects of general practice and primary care.