off record
Shaukat Ali Jawaid

Serving healthy food
at Medical Conferences


In a country where over 40% of its population is living below the poverty line, it is not at all acceptable that members of the medical profession should organize their social get-togethers, medical conferences and symposia at Five Star Hotels. Since all this is sponsored by the pharmaceutical trade and industry, they being in business, pass it on to the patients by way of increased cost of drugs and services they offer. It is high time that conscious members of the medical profession should do some soul searching and help guide the doctor’s community to return to the lecture halls and auditoriums of medical institutions from the Banquet Halls of Five Star Hotels. Organizing these academic activities at medical institutions offers many benefits. Apart from reducing the cost of these conferences drastically, it also provides an academic environment.

National Bioethics Committee in its Guidelines on Physicians interaction with Pharmaceutical Trade and Industry has discussed all these issues threadbare and come up with easily doable, practical suggestions. These guidelines have also been approved by the Federal Government but what is lacking is its increased awareness and getting these guidelines implemented. Federal Health Minister Ms Sara Afzal Tarrar will be well advised to go through this document carefully and ensure its implementation not only by the federal government but also make sure that the provinces also get it implemented. It is not a difficult task but it can go a long way in ensuring ethical medical practice on the part of the doctors and ethical marketing practices by the Pharma trade and industry. Not only that let it be made clear that all presenters at the medical conferences must declare their sponsorship before making the presentation. It is a routine all over the civilized world and is being practiced for the last many years.

It is also important that healthy food is served at the medical conferences. Doctors advise their patients to use healthy diet and adopt life style modification to remain healthy. It cannot have its desired impact till the doctors themselves start practicing what they preach. However, in reality the situation is much different. Once Pakistan Cardiac Society at its conference served healthy food at the meeting held at a Five Star Hotel. The daily lunch menu included Dal, vegetables, chicken or fish and rice. Prof. S.H. Shafqat was the chairman of the organizing committee with Prof. Mansoor Ahmad as the organizing secretary. It is learnt that both of them had to listen lot of angry voices, uncharitable remarks from the cardiac society members who were not at all happy at serving this Healthy Food.

In principal, the conference organizers should serve working one dish lunch during the meeting and simple tea with cookies at the tea interval. The main objective is to promote academics rather than eating. However, what is surprising is the fact that lunch as well as dinner has very rich menu and above all lot of food is also wasted. Doctors belong to an affluent educated class in the society but when it comes to eating, they can successfully compete with the Jialas and Matwallas as regards conquering the food tables. Some are seen with mountains of food in their plates as if no second serving will be available. Let the healthcare professionals realize that all this brings them a very bad name and it does not help improve their image. One hopes that the enlightened, conscious members of the doctor’s community will come forward to guide the healthcare professionals on these issues to ensure a positive outcome.{jcomments on}

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