LAHORE - Punjab Higher Education Commission chairman Dr Nizamuddin has said that healthcare providers at primary level, especially family physicians, are key to a more effective system.

Inaugurating international symposium on “Transforming healthcare through education, training and research in family medicine” here at the University of Health Sciences (UHS) on Friday, he said that general practice or family medicine was the corner stone of primary healthcare.

Dr Nizamuddin maintained that family physicians integrated the 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.

Punjab HEC Chairman emphasized the need of collecting fresh data with regards to 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 postgraduate medical education of Cambridge University, Prof John Biggs, said that family medicine departments should be established in medical colleges and a separate cadre of teachers be developed as per the direction of Pakistan Medical and Dental Council. He quoted researchers that primary healthcare services in Pakistan, particularly in rural areas, were in dismal state.

“If quality of care is not high on an agenda, a quality culture is not possible,” Prof Biggs said recommending that an advisory group on family medicine be established which worked with the government on raising quality of standards in primary care. He said that institutions such as UHS have to play a role in the training of family physicians and there should be an agreement on a national curriculum, standards and assessment in this regard.

Professor at King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Prof Riaz Qureshi, said that research shows that countries which emphasize primary care and family medicine have better health outcomes at lower costs. He said that in UK, in case of common illness, 75 per cent people resorted to self-care, 22.5 per cent consulted family physicians and 2.5 per cent went to hospitals.

UHS Vice Chancellor, Maj Gen (r) Prof Muhammad Aslam emphasised the need of learning lessons from the past and making collective efforts for the provision of training and education of family physicians.

UHS Family Medicine department’s head and the organizing secretary of the symposium, Dr Usman Jawad, said that UHS aimed to bring all the stakeholder of family medicine in Pakistan under one roof to discuss various aspects of general practice and primary care.

UHS Pro-Vice Chancellor Prof Junaid Sarfraz Khan, Prof Waris Qidwai, Dr Sumera Badar, Dr Amina Ahmed, Dr Saima Iqbal, Dr Nasir Shah, Dr Marie Andradeas, Dr Noor Ahmed, Dr Hina Javed, Dr Basharat Ali, Dr Rukhsana Insari, Dr Usman Jawad, Dr Shehryar Bhatti, Dr Mazhar-ul-Islam, Dr Tariq Mian, Dr Shahid Shahab, Dr Tariq Aziz and Dr Aftab Iqbal also spoke on the occasion.