Exclusively written for the Sting by Ms Unsa Athar, a fourth year medical student from King Edward Medical University in Lahore, Pakistan. Ms Athar is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Association (IFMSA).
Access to health in developing countries like Pakistan is affected by a number of factors. Poverty, poor infrastructure, low literacy rate, politicization of health care matters etc. One of the most important factor is lack of awareness. Myths, religious beliefs, words of the elderly, blind people, even the educated ones. I was once strolling in the waiting area of my teaching hospital, asking people if their kids were vaccinated and most of the parents said ‘No, we didn’t complete the course because our kid becomes cranky after taking the drops.’ Some people believed that polio drops would make their kids sterile because the head of their town said so. The government of Pakistan has worked really hard on the door to door polio drops campaign but what could can come out of it if people are not well aware of the consequences of saying no to the drops?
I do not know who is at fault here. The government or the doctors. The government plays advertisements on T.V. forgetting about the population who lives below the poverty line and has no T.V.! The doctors in the outpatient department in a big city hospital have to check 100 patients on daily basis. So they probably forget to guide their patients while writing prescriptions.
But as a medical student I do know that I can play a very important part in spreading awareness. And that is what I would like to share with the readers. Medical students in Pakistan are actively involved in a number of volunteer activities to improve access to basic health care. The most recent one that I have come across is “Volunteer Force Against Hepatitis Transmission.” Under the banner of this campaign, during their ward rotations students are guiding all the patients they encounter about the spread, effects, treatment and prevention of hepatitis. About 10 million people are infected with hepatitis C in Pakistan. By simply talking to people about it and telling them what to do can have a significant effect on reducing the morbidity. Another such awareness campaign led by students that I was a part of is “Maternal Child Health Care Program.” We went to the pediatric ward and talked to the mothers there about their gynecological and obstetric history, what home remedies they can do if their newborns suffer from some ailment and when to let go of the home remedies and seek help.
I have mentioned these two examples not to brag about our enthusiastic medical students. I am sure medical students have the same zeal all over the world. The actual reason behind writing this article is to urge the readers from developed countries to extend a helping hand to the developing nations. Bringing change at the government level is complicated and political I know, but providing our medical students with ideas, resources, and positive energy is not that difficult, is it? We have man power; we have passion; all we need is support from the world to make medical students our saviours.
About the author
Unsa Athar is a fourth year medical student from King Edward Medical University, Lahore. She is currently the Publications Support Division Director, IFMSA-Pakistan and has had her articles published in Medical Student International and US, The weekly magazine of the THE NEWS INTERNATIONAL. She is also currently heading the official blog of King Edward Medical University, KEMUNITED (www.kemunited.com) She loves to read, write, and act! She is known in her alma mater for her acting skills. She is an active member of many student activities in her institute and believes in being the change she wants to see in the world.