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Ensuring healthy life and promoting wellbeing

Good health is central to mankind’s happiness that contributes significantly to the economic progress of any nation. A healthy population is, therefore, more productive, earns more income and lives longer and healthy lives. Good health and nutrition thus play a pivotal role in the socio-economic development of countries, whereas malnutrition, poor health and increased load of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are considered barriers to socio-economic development.

Due to the uncontrolled increase in population the public health service delivery infrastructure remains under constant pressure.

Despite focus of successive governments with the help of international organizations like WHO the public health expenditure remains insufficient to meet the requirements and the gap between health delivery and expenditure is constantly increasing.

After the 18th constitutional amendment, health like education has become a provincial subject. However, the federal government has supported various health initiatives through Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) for the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to bring improvement in the overall health status of the country.

The PSDP programmes are Sehat Sahulat Programme, Ehsaas Programme, Family Planning & Primary Health Care Programme (FP&PHC), Expanded Programme for Immunization, Polio Eradication Initiative (PEI), National Health Emergency Preparedness & Response Network (NHEP&RN), Safe Blood Transfusion Services (SBTS), Malaria Control Programme, Tuberculosis (TB) Control Programme & HIV/AIDS Control Programme.

According to UNDP, Goal 3 of SDG is to “ensure healthy lives & promote wellbeing for all at all ages”.

Most of the developing countries remain off-track to achieving the health-related SDGs and cost-effective measures like use of sports and physical activity in achieving the desired SDGs are not discussed in the media. Excessive use of social media and a sedentary lifestyle has led to a significant decline in physical activity.

According to a report, 3.2 million people die every year around the world due to physical inactivity and it is the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality. According to Dr Minhaj us Siraj, a senior public health practitioner and former Executive Director of PIMS hospital, the most common diseases related to lifestyle include high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes type 2, which contribute to the constant swelling of health budgets that can be easily reduced through regular participation in sports and exercise.

Dr. Minhaj, who has led the national anti-tobacco drive in the country, also considers smoking a problem that can be effectively addressed by adopting a healthy lifestyle and through regular participation in exercise and sports.

Participation in sports is associated with improved psychological and social health, as well as prevention and treatment of substance abuse (SDG 3.5). Regular participation in sports supports the healthy development of children and adolescents, including their cognitive and physiological development.

Sports events and large-scale physical activity programmes can provide cost-effective platforms for community and national health messaging components of almost all PSDP programmes, including anti-tobacco drives in the country.

While doctors prescribe a long list of medicines and expensive investigations to address routine illnesses of patients, and fat pharmaceuticals keep doubling their profits by selling expensive medicines to poor masses in the name of healthcare, little attention is paid by the policymakers to making use of physical exercise and sports to improve the general physical fitness level of masses, so that they can effectively overcome a number of diseases without sacrificing a large amount of their hard-earned money.

The policymakers can take a lead from the Chinese who launched China 2030 plan to achieve health-related SDGs through sports and physical activities. The young and elderly population in China participate in sports and physical activities to improve national fitness, and prevent NCDs and also support in achieving “Healthy China” 2030 goal.

In a country like Pakistan, where health expenses are increasing on a daily basis, the adoption of sports to attain SDG 3 can be a very cost-effective and sustainable method, which must be included in the national health policy.

Physical activity is a universally accepted and economical intervention that has been demonstrated to reverse and prevent many NCDs.


Aamir Bilal is an eminent sports analyst with expertise in sports management and sports for development