Policymakers urged to integrate mental health services into primary care settings

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PESHAWAR: Experts have called upon policymakers to integrate mental health services into primary care settings to scale up awareness and reduce stigma associated with mental health illnesses among people.

At the concluding session of fourth International Public Health Conference at Khyber Medical University (KMU) on 20 April 2024, they termed strengthening primary healthcare important to put brakes on increasing number of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the country.

Health Secretary Mahmood Aslam Wazir, who was chief guest on the occasion, stressed the need for prioritising investment in addressing the issue of NCDs keeping in view the alarming statistics regarding prevalence of diabetes and hypertension among people and asked for suggestions to further strengthen preventive side of the diseases. He said that government wanted to end such illnesses by using preventive programmes, a press release said.

Emphasising the importance of collaboration among governmental bodies, academia and healthcare professionals, he highlighted the pivotal role such collaboration played in advancing public health initiatives and ensuring well-being of communities.

Dr Khalid Rehman, Dr Abdul Jalil Khan, Dr Maria Ishaq Khattak, Dr Shaista Rasool, Dr Samrina, Dr Ikram, Dr Sheraz Fazid, Dr Nauman Arif and Shujat Faqir also spoke on the occasion.

They said that prevention was at the heart of the conference which drew experts from Pakistan and abroad .The event featured discussions and facilitated invaluable knowledge exchange among participants in the broader contest of public health.

Key discussions held on the collaborative approach needed for control of NCDs, emphasising early detection, prevention strategies and comprehensive management. Speakers also advocated for robust tobacco control policies, including measures such as increased taxes, comprehensive advertising bans and public awareness campaigns, highlighting the harmful effects of tobacco use in addition to making calls to integrate mental health services into primary care settings to raise awareness and reduce stigma surrounding mental health issues.

Recognising the pivotal role of family medicine in bolstering healthcare systems, they explored avenues to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and health informatics for disease surveillance, predictive analytics and personalised healthcare delivery. They said that those were essential factors to bring policy changes and tackle the diseases at the level of primary health facilities.

The event underscored the importance of sustained collaboration among stakeholders to address public health challenges and leverage global best practices. The recommendations stemming from the conference discussions underscored urgent need for concerted action to advance public health agendas on global scale.

Acknowledgement: Published in Dawn News on 21st April 2024.
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