Islamabad, May 24, 2016: Minister of State for National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination Mrs. Saira Afzal Tarar addresses World Health Assembly - Calls for equity and social protection as Priority for global health.

Minister for National Health Services Saira Afzal Tarar addressed the 196 nation World Health Assembly calling for greater emphasis on equity in access to health-care and people-centered set of universal and transformative goals and targets for the future. The Sustainable Development Goals, she said with strong focus on equity will serve to ensure that "no one is left behind'.

Health is positioned as a major contributor to the other Sustainable Development Goals, and reciprocally benefits from progress towards the other Sustainable Development Goals, she said.

The challenges we face are related to building health systems capable of providing integrated, people-centered care, she said. Addressing new health priorities without compromising existing programs requires careful balance. The non-communicable diseases are becoming a global challenge in developed and developing countries alike. They will sooner or later overwhelm the existing health system capacities unless rapid investments are made in disease prevention and health promotion. Noting the need to strengthen linkages between health, development and humanitarian work, a growing concern in many countries will be how to better integrate humanitarian and development assistance.

The Minister informed that Pakistan is taking strides in prioritizing universal health coverage through launching Prime Minister's National Health Program for population living below poverty line. The program is being implement across the country in phases and is providing free of cost treatment to hundreds of thousands of families through both public and private health facilities.

Pakistan is giving attention to implementation of International Health Regulations to stop spread of disease across borders in a globalised world. Most recently, we have completed our Joint External Evaluation of International Health Regulations and Global Health Security Agenda. The External Evaluation assessed country capacity to prevent, detect and rapidly respond to public health threats. Pakistan is the first country in the Eastern Mediterranean Region and in Asia to volunteer for this assesment the minister said. On polio eradication she informed the global health leadership that the country has taken major strides to arrest spread of polio with 11 cases restricted to three well defined regions as compared to 24 in corresponding period last year. This year 9 percent environmental samples found positive as compared to 22 percent last year. The intensity and distribution of wild poliovirus has declined significantly. Aggressive campaigns are being undertaken in 2016 to stop poliovirus transmission with major strides in security for teams, campaign quality and monitoring, she added.