ISLAMABAD - Health Minister Saira Afzal Tarar has sought support to upgrade public health laboratories and strengthen surveillance system to bring health system at par with international standards.

The health minister is currently visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention –- a leading national public health institute of the United States. She made a strong case in her deliberations with CDC Director Dr Tom Frieden seeking crucial support for upgrading health system in Pakistan.

“The communicable diseases’ outbreaks are rampant in the country and we need to act fast to strengthen our surveillance system to be better prepared to deal with this major public health challenge. Surveillance system in the country needs to be responsive and cater to our needs,” she said. The minister said the laboratories are required to be upgraded to allow for high-tech diagnostic facilities.

Tarar visited Centres for Disease Control Atlanta along with delegation including ED NIH, health secretaries of Sindh and Khyber Pukhtunkhwa. She was received by Dr Tom Freidan, the head of CDC, and his team. She was briefed about functioning of CDC and its role in controlling epidemics like Ebola. She also was shown the disease surveillance system in US and other departments of CDC.

Pakistan has applied for two large grants from CDC for up-gradation of public health laboratories and immunisation support in Pakistan. The visit of delegation is linked to final approvals of the grants. The CDC will be helping the ministry of national health services in HR development and polio campaigns as well.

The minister expressed her desire to establish a robust disease surveillance system in Pakistan which could respond to all sorts of emerging threats and mount an effective response. Dr Tom Freidan appreciated the ongoing efforts in Pakistan and assured full support of CDC in coming years.