First Ever National Health Research Agenda

Genetics, child Health, communicable diseases, NCDs,
oral health identified as priority areas for research

Other areas identified include, reproductive health, autism, mental health
malignancies, high altitude medicine, extremism and terrorism;
transfusion and transplantation medicine and occupational health

LAHORE: The researchers, academicians and health professionals from around the country have agreed on a 5-year National Health Research Agenda (2017-2022) that identifies 18 key areas related to health in which research should be carried out.

In a colloquium organized by the University of Health Sciences (UHS) on May 23, 2017, experts and representatives from various health institutions, universities and accrediting bodies including Higher Education Commission (HEC), Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PM&DC) and Punjab Higher Education Commission (PHEC), reached a consensus on the areas where health research was most needed. The agenda will be circulated among stakeholders including higher education institutions, research organizations, regulators and policy makers and will be implemented after incorporating their recommendations.

The priority areas identified in the research agenda include: (i) genetics including congenital defects and parental screening  and counselling; (ii) reproductive health such as maternal health; (iii) child health including prenatal and neonatal, childhood areas such as birth asphyxia, sepsis, diarrhoea, growth retardation, prematurity and nutritional deficiencies; (iv) autism; (v) communicable diseases such as polio, HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, dengue and hepatitis, infection control; (vi) non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, cardio vascular diseases, injury prevention; (vii) mental health including depression, anxiety, suicide and substance abuse; (viii) malignancies especially breast cancer, colorectal carcinoma and haematological malignancies in children; (ix) oral health, promotion and diseases prevention including oral cancers, facial defects, oral infections and oral systemic connection; (x) One Health, social and environmental determinants of health, food and animal linkages to human health, high altitude medicine and social taboos; (xi) health professionals education and researcher’s capacity development; (xii) quality assurance and improvement including quality care and quality assurance of labs; (xiii) advance technology including biotechnology, nanotechnology, robotics, telemedicine, molecular medicine, tissue engineering; (xiv) health systems and health policy research including surveillance and mapping, rapid preparedness, disaster management, human resource for health, health leadership, health education promotion to public (schools, madrassas, mosques) and normal health data base;  (xv) extremism and terrorism; (xvi) transfusion and transplantation medicine; (xvii) preventing health at different levels, biosafety, development of vaccines and antibiotics; (xviii) and occupational health.

Prof. Junaid Sarfraz Khan Vice Chancellor University of Health Sciences presenting
a memento to Dr. Nizamuddin Chairman Punjab Higher Education Commission
at the Research Conference held at UHS recently.

The initial draft of the agenda was prepared by Prof. Khalid Pervaiz Lone (Physiology), Prof. Nadeem Afzal (Immunology), Dr. Asima Kareem (Physiology), Dr. Saqib Mehmood (Molecular Biology), Dr. Shah Jahan (Immunology), Dr. Saba Khaliq (Molecular Biology), Dr. Saima Chaudhary (Oral Pathology), Prof. Asghar Naqi (Surgery), Prof. Sajid Nisar (Medicine), Prof. Humayun Iqbal Khan (Paediatrics), Prof. Zohra Khanum (Obs & Gynae), Prof. Ayesha Arif (Paediatrics), Prof. Waheed ul Hameed (Orthodontics), Prof. Shazia Maqbool (Behavioural Paediatrics), Prof. Mohsin Gillani, (Surgery), Prof. Khursheed Ahmed Khan(Medicine), Prof. Sajid Nisar (Neurology) and Dr. Usman Jawad (Family Medicine).

The Chairman, Punjab Higher Education Commission (PHEC), Prof Dr Muhammad Nizamuddin, who was the chief guest on this occasion, said that the importance of health research has been recognized at all levels. “This is the first time a national health research agenda is going to be formulated to address the issue of health research which further endorses its role within a knowledge-based economy”. He also appreciated the efforts of UHS in this regard. He also disclosed that funds upto Rs.3.00 million per project were available with PHEC and urged the researchers to come up with new proposals.

UHS Vice Chancellor, Prof Dr Junaid Sarfraz Khan said that the basic objective of the whole exercise was to divert the attention of the researchers and scholars from “petty research” to “meaningful research” so that public could benefit. “The agenda emphasizes a partnership approach to developing a thriving research culture in the health services, a partnership between health agencies, universities, and the healthcare industry”, he said.

UHS VC further stated that it would maximize the returns on investments in health research through creation of a proper health research system to prioritize, coordinate and facilitate conduct of effective and ethical research and its translation into products, policies and programmes aimed at improving health especially of the vulnerable population.

Prof Junaid said that efforts should be made to foster inter-sectoral coordination in health research including all departments within the government, private sector and the academia to promote innovation and ensure effective translation to encourage indigenous production of diagnostics, vaccine, therapeutics and medical devices.

“The agenda will be implemented through a consensus wherein all research agencies and health sciences universities identify priority areas of research and coordinate with each other to avoid duplication, fragmentation, redundancy and gaps in knowledge, to enable the results of research to transform health as a major driving force for development. He asked researchers to form WhatsApp groups and sub-groups to collaborate in research.

Former Vice Chancellor of Women University, Rawalpindi Prof. Dr. Najma Najam and consultant to HEC on National Higher Education Research Framework Muhammad Adeel Anwar also spoke on the occasion.

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