On disruptive medical trainings in Pakistan

Female-founded startup Sehat Kahani provides unique training to health workers

Over 40 young Pakistani women (and a few men) are sprawled on the floor. Crouched over colourful chart papers, markers and play-doh, they all look busy creating something wonderful together. I quickly find out that these are doctors, community health workers and nurses who are ideating over a ‘challenge’.

“We’re designing an ideal clinic for a young mother. Look, here’s a syringe and a stethoscope we made out of playdoh. Here’s a proper cupboard to arrange the community’s medical records,” says an excited health worker from Landhi pointing towards her group’s visual presentation.

What she’s learning here today is ‘design thinking’, something very few in the medical community get to experience in such a hands-on way. But this is exactly what this health workshop at the Royal Rodale Club in Karachi aims to do for the next few days.

From curating inspirational talks and awareness sessions to medical training and leadership capacity building, the Sehat Connect 2017 is the brainchild of health startup Sehat Kahani.

Revitalizing and breathing hope into the oft-ignored healthcare sector of Pakistan, the startup provides urban out-of-work female doctors with home-based work opportunities & provides rural women access to quality healthcare.  Founded by female founders and doctors Iffat Zafar and Sara Saeed Khurrum, Sehat Kahani is a social impact initiative that works on improving primary health care in communities through a spectrum of services focused on primary health care consultation, health awareness and health counseling.

“Poverty levels do not allow individuals, especially women and children, to access basic healthcare. Sehat Kahani leverages technology to help low income populations and home based female physicians to connect and create a holistic healthcare ecosystem,” says CEO of Sehat Kahani Dr. Sara Saeed explaining the bigger idea behind her social enterprise.  

When design thinking concludes, an inspirational talk by Dr. Farah Bari follows who shares her personal story of transforming the emergency obstetrics gynecology ward at Civil Hospital.

“I just knew that a woman should not have to give birth in the same room where a cat can also roam in,” says Bari laughing and reminiscing about the terrible conditions that made her want to get involved in hospital administration.

What was most empowering and educative about this workshop was the way some critical yet taboo health topics were highlighted and handled. From sexual abuse to child marriages, the workshops featured key speakers and trainers from leading sexual and reproductive healthcare NGOs who made the audience working in challenging communities explore the reasons why many of these social evils exist. These interactive sessions made participants open up about the financial, social, physical and psychological ramifications of child marriage & abuse. And finally, they learnt how to identify and tackle these problems from a medical point of view.  

It was a 5-day extensive training workshop for women healthcare professionals in collaboration with Spring (DFID & Nike). Guest speakers and trainers included renowned individuals like Dr.S.M. Qaiser Sajjad – (Secretary General, Pakistan Medical Association), Dr.Sahib Jan Badar (Technical Advisor, Mother and Child Welfare Foundation-Pakistan), Dr.Zakiuddin Ahmed (President of Healthcare Paradigm), Dr.Yasmin Amarsi (Founding Dean Nursing and Midwifery, Aga Khan University-East Africa), Kanwal Anes Ahmed (Founder and Editor in Chief, Soul Sisters Pakistan), Dr. Arif Pyarali (Soft Skills Expert, Learning Minds Group), Neha Mankani (Founder, Mama Baby Fund), Rahim Zulfiqar (Founder and Chief Spreadsheet Officer, Excel Basement), Naureen Lalani (Sexual & Reproductive Health Management Manager, Aahung), Dr.Uffaq Zara (Regional Medical Advisor Manager, Novo Nordisk Pakistan) and Tabinda Arshad (MicroEntreprenuer, Sehat Kahani E-Health Center).

Other days included sessions on ‘How to become a productivity champion’, ‘Collaborative synergies’ and ‘Effective communication strategies’, ‘Sexual and reproductive coercion: Assessment and Risk-Reduction Strategies, ‘Design Thinking’, ‘Abolishing child marriage & meeting the needs of married children’ and ‘Digitalization of healthcare’. There were also simultaneous sessions held for doctors & nurses on “Effective diagnosis and treatment of communicable and non-communicable diseases” and “Improved nursing care and advocacy for communicable and non-communicable diseases”, respectively.

Medical trainings like Sehat Connect are badly needed all over Pakistan so that the local health community can be inspired, motivated, trained and developed to become frontline leaders. This is the only way they can one day incorporate and integrate technological solutions at their clinics and provide better healthcare to patients.

With plans to empower 1000 female doctors by end of this year and impact 6 million lives by 2020, Sehat Kahani has a long journey ahead of them. “We currently have 9 clinics under our banner and we are launching 5 more clinics in Karachi and Sindh along with 2 clinics in Naran and Balakot by mid August,” says Iffat Zafar.

With partners like Unilever, GSK, BISP, Elaj Trust, Momentum, HCP, NVP, as well as Nike & Spring, there is no doubt that Sehat Kahani will continue to create innovative health solutions for preventive and clinical care in Pakistan.

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