A Milestone in Healthcare

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Published on May 17, 2024
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Sheikh Hasina’s dynamic leadership strides have driven the rapidly increasing movement towards the formation of community clinics. These community clinics, which are mostly known as “The Sheikh Hasina Initiative”, have been revered in the public health sector. These community clinics embraced hope and optimism for millions of people who were also previously denied suitable medical care.

The establishment of the Community Clinic programme dates back to 1998. However, between 2001 and 2006 when the Bangladesh Nationalist Party was in power, the functioning of the community clinics got shuttered. The process was only started again after 2009 when the Awami League government retained power. Since then, over 13,000 community clinics have been established in the entire country.

A collaborative approach to this endeavour has transformed the way healthcare is delivered. It has made it possible for critical services to reach the population, which hitherto lacked sufficient support in this area. Furthermore, the aspect of participation has created a sense of ownership and dedication among the members of the community.

The concept of the Community Clinic exhibits an all-around inclusive and enabling healthcare approach that was enabled through the collaborative efforts of the government and the community.

Bangladesh, similar to several developing countries, had substantial obstacles in guaranteeing sufficient healthcare facilities for its population, especially the destitute groups dispersed across its rural areas.

A Milestone in HealthcareFor many years, the absence of fundamental healthcare services in these regions has continued a pattern of agony and hopelessness, as avoidable illnesses have caused deaths and hindered the progress of several persons. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina undertook a revolutionary endeavour to reimagine healthcare service in the country against challenging circumstances.

The fundamental tenet of the Sheikh Hasina Initiative is to decentralise healthcare services and establish their proximity to the populace, especially those residing in underserved areas.

The government's objective was to narrow the divide between the healthcare system and the marginalised population by setting up community clinics in villages and rural locations. This initiative sought to enable citizens to easily get vital medical treatment without having to endure the difficulties of long trips to distant institutions.

These health centres have become a one-stop-shop providing a variety of health services, including routine tests, vaccinations, and specialised care for the mother and child in a manner that accommodates the needs of the population. Furthermore, they have become integral advocates for distributing information about health and fostering public consciousness, encouraging people to take charge of their health and adopt preventive measures against common health conditions.

The Sheikh Hasina Initiative stands out for its notable focus on community engagement and active involvement. Instead of enforcing solutions from above, the government has collaborated closely with local stakeholders, such as community leaders, healthcare workers, and volunteers, to guarantee the effectiveness and long-term viability of these clinics.

This cooperative method not only cultivates a feeling of possession and responsibility but also utilises the abundant reserve of local expertise and assets, so ensuring that the initiative is genuinely driven by the local community.

The Sheikh Hasina Initiative holds great importance not just inside Bangladesh but also garners respect and praise from the world community.

The country's strategy for resolving healthcare inequalities has been widely praised by organisations and professionals worldwide. The United Nations recognised "The Sheikh Hasina Initiative" with the approval of a significant resolution, symbolising global unity in support of comprehensive healthcare. After more than four months of intense talks involving all 193 member nations, the resolution marks the beginning of a new era in community-based primary health care.

The historic acknowledgement of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina highlights her consistent commitment to public health and fairness, emphasising her significant influence on global healthcare priorities.
As we marked the accomplishments of the Sheikh Hasina Initiative in the past, it is crucial to realise that the efforts to sustain and expand its impact are not a one-time thing, but an ongoing process.

Even though community clinics have created significant success, they are only a minor contribution or part of the bigger picture in the fight to achieve universal health coverage and make sure all people have equal health rights. Thus, the government should continue their efforts in this regard.

As Bangladesh goes on to achieve a better life, the country must always be prepared for new health risks and develop the healthcare system to respond to the changing needs. The case of COVID-19 has clearly shown that it is not the hospital beds or ventilators which are the most important in fighting the disease – rather, it is the infrastructure, which was in place and ready to protect the communities from the health threats.

The Sheikh Hasina Initiative has become a firm step for Bangladesh to increase its coping efficiency and be prepared for whatever unprecedented phenomenon might hit the country in the future. This Initiative is an illustration of how a visionary leader and a united group of people can work together and achieve a healthier society and well-being.

Dr. Pranab Kumar Panda: Professor in the Department of Public Administration at the University of Rajshahi