Health Care in Pakistan

Health Care & Resources In Pakistan

Personnel (source)
Doctors (2009) 139,555
Dentists (2009) 9,822
Nurses (2009) 69,313
Midwives (2009) 26,225
Health visitors (2009) 10,731
Registered vets (2009) 4,800
Health facilities in 2009 (source)
Total Health Facilities 13,937 103,708 beds
Hospitals 968 84,257 beds
Dispensaries 4,813 2,845 beds
Rural health centers 572 9,612 beds
Tuberculosis clinic 293 184 beds
Basic health units 5,345 6,555 beds
M.C.H. centers 906 256 beds


According to official data, there are 127,859 doctors and 12,804 health facilities in the country to cater for over 170 million people.[8]

Many Pakistani doctors and medical professionals choose to migrate to other countries, contributing to a brain drain and chronic skills shortage in the country. In the United States alone, there are over 17,000 doctors of Pakistani origin.[9] Pakistan is the fourth highest source of International medical graduate doctors in the U.S[10] as well as the fourth highest source of foreign dentists licensed in the United States.[11]



Healthcare in Pakistan is administered mainly in the private sector which accounts for approximately 80% of all outpatient visits. The public sector was until recently led by the Ministry of Health, however the Ministry was abolished in June 2011 and all health responsibilities (mainly planning and fund allocation) were devolved to provincial Health Departments which had until now been the main implementers of public sector health programs. Like other South Asian countries, health and sanitation infrastructure is adequate in urban areas but is generally poor in rural areas.

Pakistan’s healthcare system has both public and private options. There are government-run hospitals which are low-cost and offer basic medical treatment, and expensive private medical facilities.[1] A pilot universal health care program is underway in Punjab, with the eventual aim of covering 10 million people.[2]

Ministry of Health of Pakistan states that health expenditure of period 2007-08 was 3.791 billion Pakistani rupees while that spent on development was 14.272 billion.[3]


Cancer care

Cancer information on Pakistan [4] Approximately one in every 9 Pakistani women is likely to suffer from breast cancer which is one of the highest incidence rates in Asia.[5]

Major cancer centers in Pakistan include the Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital & Research Center in Lahore, Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi and the National Institute of Blood Diseases (NIBD) in Karachi.


Priority diseases

Most common and lethal diseases in Pakistan include:

  • Acute respiratory infection (51%): Among the victims of ARI, most vulnerable are children whose immune systems have been weakened by malnutrition. In 1990, National ARI Control Programme was started in order to reduce the mortality concerned with pneumonia and other respiratory diseases. In following three years, death rates among victims under age of five in Islamabad had been reduced to half.[2] In 2006, there were 16,056,000 reported cases of ARI, out of which 25.6% were children under age of five.
  • Viral hepatitis (7.5%): Viral Hepatitis, particularly that caused by types B and C are major epidemics in Pakistan with nearly 12 million individuals infected with either of the virus. The main cause remains massive overuse of therapeutic injections and reuse of syringes during these injections in the private sector healthcare.
  • Malaria (16%): It is a problem faced by the lower-class people in Pakistan. The unsanitary conditions and stagnant water bodies in the rural areas and city slums provide excellent breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Use of nets and mosquito repellents is becoming more common. A programme initiated by the government aims to bring down malarial incidence below 0.01% by the year 2011. In Pakistan, malarial incidence reaches its peak in September. 1000 million people have died from Malaria since Pakistan came into being till December 2012.[3] In 2006, there were around 4,390,000 new reported cases of fever.
  • Diarrhea (15%): There were around 4,500,000 reported cases in 2006, 14% of which were children under the age of five.
  • Dysentery (8%) and Scabies (7%)
  • Others: goitre, hepatitis and tuberculosis

Infectious diseases

Infectious diseases in Pakistan by proportion (2006)

Controllable diseases[edit]

  • Cholera: As of 2006, there were a total of 4,610 cases of suspected cholera. However, the floods of 2010 suggested that cholera transmission may be more prevalent than previously understood. Furthermore, research from the Aga Khan University suggests that cholera may account for a quarter of all childhood diarrhea in some parts of rural Sindh.
  • Dengue fever: An outbreak of dengue fever occurred in October 2006 in Pakistan. Several deaths occurred due to misdiagnosis, late treatment and lack of awareness in the local population. But overall, steps were taken to kill vectors for the fever and the disease was controlled later, with minimal casualties.
  • Measles: As of 2008, there were a total of 441 reported cases of measles in Pakistan.
  • Meningococcal meningitis: As of 2006, there were a total of 724 suspected cases of Meningococcal meningitis.


Pakistan is one of the few countries in which poliomyelitis has not been eradicated. As of 2008, there were a total of 89 reported cases of polio in Pakistan.[4] Polio cases may be on an increase. The year 2010 saw an increase in the number of cases as well as identification of polio from new locations. Experts from the national program and the WHO felt that the new cases identified from southern Punjab and northern Sindh may have resulted from importation of infections from other locations in Pakistan. Locations in FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa remain hosts for year-round persistence of infection and environmental sampling by the national program, and WHO suggests that polio remains endemic in many other parts of the country.


Main article: HIV/AIDS in Pakistan

The AIDS epidemic is well established and may even be expanding in Pakistan. Risk factors are high rates of commercial sex and non-marital sex,[5][6] high levels of therapeutic injections (often with non-sterile equipment),[7][8] and low use of condoms [9] The former National AIDS Control Programme (it was devolved with the Health Ministry) and the UNAIDS state that there are an estimated 97,000 HIV positive individuals in Pakistan. However, these figures are based on dated opinions and inaccurate assumptions; and are inconsistent with available national surveillance data which suggest that the overall number may closer to 40,000.[10]

Family planning

“The government of Pakistan wants to stabilize the population (achieve zero growth rate) by 2020. And maximizing the usage of family planning methods is one of the pillars of the population program”.[11] The latest Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey (PDHS) conducted by Macro International with partnership of National Institute of Population Studies (NIPS) registered family planning usage in Pakistan to be 30 percent. While this shows an overall increase from 12 percent in 1990-91 (PDHS 1990-91), 8% of these are users of traditional methods. Approximately 7 million women use any form of family planning and the number of urban family planning users have remained nearly static between 1990 and 2007. Since a many of contraception users are sterilized (38%), the actual number of women accessing any family planning services in a given year are closer to 3 million with over half buying either condoms or pills from stores directly. Government programs by either the Health or Population ministries together combine to reach less than 1 million users annually.[12] Thus, fertility remains high, at 4.1 births per woman. Owing to such high fertility levels, Pakistan’s overall population growth rate is much higher than elsewhere in South Asia (1.9 percent per year).

Some of the main factors that account for this lack of progress with Family Planning include inadequate programs that don’t meet the needs of women who desire family planning or counsel users of family planning about potential side effects, a lack of effective campaign to convince women and their families about the value of smaller families and the overall social mores of a society where women seldom control decisions about their own fertility or families. However the single most important factor that has confounded efforts to promote family planning in Pakistan is the lack of consistent supply of commodities and services.[13] Indeed, the unmet need for contraception has remained high at around 25% of all married women of reproductive age (higher than the proportion that are using a modern contraceptive and twice as high as the number of women being served with family planning services in any given year[14]) and historically any attempt to supply commodities has been met with extremely rapid rise (over 10% per annum) in contraception users compared with the 0.5% increase in national CPR over the past 50 years.

Currently the government contributes about a third of all FP services and the private sector including NGOs the rest. Within the private sector, franchised clinics offer higher quality health care than unfranchised clinics but there is no discernible difference between costs per client and proportion of poorest clients across franchised and unfranchised private clinics.[15] Government programs are run by both the Ministries of Populaition Welfare and Health. The most common method used is female sterilization which accounts for over a third of all modern method users. Unfortunately this happens too late for most women as sterilized women are over 30 years of age and have 4 or more children. Condoms are the next most popular method.

Maternal and child health

In June 2011, the United Nations Population Fund released a report on The State of the World’s Midwifery. It contained new data on the midwifery workforce and policies relating to newborn and maternal mortality for 58 countries. The 2010 maternal mortality rate per 100,000 births for Pakistan is 260. This is compared with 376.5 in 2008 and 541.2 in 1990. The under 5 mortality rate, per 1,000 births is 89 and the neonatal mortality as a percentage of under 5’s mortality is 48. The aim of this report is to highlight ways in which the Millennium Development Goals can be achieved, particularly Goal 4 – Reduce child mortality and Goal 5 – improve maternal death. In Pakistan the number of midwives per 1,000 live births is 10 and the lifetime risk of death for pregnant women is 1 in 93.[16]

There is a huge imbalance in these figures. In Balochistan, for instance, the maternal mortality is 785 deaths per 100,000 live births which is nearly triple the national rate. It should be noted here that in rural Pakistan, maternal mortality is nearly twice than that in cities. The sad reality is that 80 per cent of maternal deaths are preventable.[17]


Obesity is a health issue that has attracted concern only in the past few years. Urbanisation and an unhealthy, energy-dense diet (the high presence of oil and fats in Pakistani cooking), as well as changing lifestyles, are among the root causes contributing to obesity in the country. According to a list of the world’s “fattest countries” published on Forbes, Pakistan is ranked 165 (out of 194 countries) in terms of its overweight population, with 22.2% of individuals over the age of 15 crossing the threshold of obesity.[18] This ratio roughly corresponds with other studies, which state one-in-four Pakistani adults as being overweight.[19][20]

Research indicates that people living in large cities in Pakistan are more exposed to the risks of obesity as compared to those in the rural countryside. Women also naturally have higher rates of obesity as compared to men. Pakistan also has the highest percentage of people with diabetes in South Asia.[21]

According to one study, “fat” is more dangerous for South Asians than for Caucasians because the fat tends to cling to organs like the liver instead of the skin.[22]

  1. “Health facts”. Ministry of Health, Pakistan. Retrieved 7 September 2010. 
  2. “Pakistan acts to reduce child deaths from pneumonia”. World Health Organization (WHO), International. Archived from the original on April 13, 2001. Retrieved August 1, 1982.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  3. “National Malaria Control Programme”. Ministry of Health, Pakistan. Retrieved 7 September 2010. 
  4. “Country Profiles (Pakistan)”. World Health Organization. Retrieved 7 September 2010. 
  5. Migrant men: a priority for HIV control in Pakistan? Faisel A, Cleland J. Sex Transm Infect. 2006;82:307-310
  6. National AIDS Control Programme and Population Council of Pakistan. Study of Sexually Transmitted Infections: Survey of the Bridging Population. 2007 [1]
  7. Pasha O, Luby SP, Khan AJ, Shah SA, McCormick JB, Fisher-Hoch SP. Household members of hepatitis C virus-infected people in Hafizabad, Pakistan: infection by injections from health care providers. Epidemiol Infect. 1999;123:515-518.
  8. Khan AJ, Luby SP, Fikree F et al. Unsafe injections and the transmission of hepatitis B and C in a periurban community in Pakistan. Bull World Health Organ. 2000;78:956-963
  9. National AIDS Control Programme and HIV/AIDS Surveillance Project. [HIV/AIDS Surveillance Project of Pakistan: Round 3. 2008]
  10. Burki T. New government in Pakistan faces old challenges. Lancet Infect Dis. 2008;8:217-218 and Shah, SA. Tropical Medicine Symposium, The Aga Khan University and the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine, 2008.
  11. Population Policy of Government of Pakistan
  12. Overview of Family Planning in Pakistan
  13. Family Planning Services in Pakistan
  14. What unmet need for family planning means in Pakistan
  15. Shah, Nirali; et al. (2011). “Comparing Private Sector Family Planning Services To Government And NGO Services In Ethiopia And Pakistan: How Do Social Franchises Compare Across Quality, Equity And Cost?”. Health Policy Plan 26 (Suppl 1): i63 – i71. doi:10.1093/heapol/czr027. Retrieved 26 May 2012. 
  16. “The State Of The World’s Midwifery”. United Nations Population Fund. Retrieved August 2011. 
  17. Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey 2006-07
  18. Streib, Lauren (2 August 2007). “World’s Fattest Countries”. Forbes. 
  19. “One in four adults is overweight or clinically obese”. Gulf News. December 17, 2006. 
  20. Epidemic of obesity in Pakistan – one in four Pakistanis may be overweight or obese
  21. Nanan, D.J. “The Obesity Pandemic – Implications for Pakistan”. Journal of Pakistan Medical Association. 
  22. Fat is more dangerous for South Asians: Study