Karachi- The Aga Khan University celebrated the groundbreaking of a new Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health (CoEWCH) building on its Stadium Road campus today.
The new 149,000-square-foot building will consolidate the role of the CoEWCH as a focal point for the University’s research and policy advocacy efforts that aim to generate new insights into Pakistan’s interconnected health challenges in support of national development priorities for women and child health.
“The Centre will be the first of its kind in low and middle income countries,” said Professor Zulfiqar Bhutta, founding director of the CoEWCH and co-director of the SickKids Centre for Global Child Health in Toronto, at the groundbreaking ceremony. “It will enable us to expand and enhance the University’s study of the social determinants that shape and impact the well-being of children and women: the underlying conditions in which people are born, grow, live and work.”
The CoEWCH brings together experts from the fields of medicine, public health, liberal arts, nursing and education and provides training opportunities on priority issues related to women and children.
“Pakistan may have missed the Millennium Development Goals and targets for maternal and child health,” Professor Bhutta said. “However, the Sustainable Development Goals offer a huge opportunity for value added work across disciplinary boundaries. The CoEWCH will continue to work in a concerted manner to help women and children in Pakistan and other developing countries live healthy and meaningful lives.”
Speakers at the event noted that the CoEWCH will focus its work on priority topics of concern affecting Pakistan’s development such as why malnutrition is chronic and widespread in many parts of the country, how to alleviate the impact of gender inequality and insecurity on the country’s health, and the most worthwhile interventions to enhance the well-being of our ‘bulging’ youth population.
The new facility will be based over three floors and will house three state-of-the-art laboratories for microbiology, epidemiology and nutrition; a research data management unit; faculty offices and dedicated spaces to build the capacity of young researchers in the field. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a key partner of the CoEWCH.
Over the past 10 years, the University’s researchers in maternal and child health have collaborated with national and international partners to generate vital evidence into the country’s most pressing health issues.
Their work has led to the introduction of life-saving vaccines into Pakistan’s Expanded Programme of Immunization, validated the effectiveness of 56 low-cost interventions to tackle deadly preventable diseases, championed reforms in the Lady Health Worker programme and presented the most detailed insight of the country’s nutritional challenges through three cycles of Pakistan’s National Nutrition Survey.
Other speakers at the event included AKU President Firoz Rasul and Sadruddin Hashwani whose Hashoo Foundation donated to the facility.