This is part of a limited, annual, series, “14 Days, 14 Stories”, about ordinary Pakistanis who are doing extraordinary things in order to give back to Pakistan.
51 % of the People in Pakistan don’t have access to primary healthcare. Yeah, that’s about more than half the population of almost 200 million people. This is rather distressing given that Pakistan produces 170,000 doctors every year. Of all this, half of the total annual doctors are women and it has been reported that 23 % of female doctors never even register as working professionals, after graduation. This happens mainly because of their societal apprehensions like marriage or the false perception about working women not being able to manage families at the same time.
In order to bring the unproductive, yet extremely literate female doctors, back into the workforce and provide basic healthcare to people in remote areas, Sara Khurram has started a venture that allows female doctors to work according to their flexibility.
Sehat Kahani, as the venture is called, aims to empower the entire value-chain of female healthcare providers to deliver healthcare in undeserved, untapped communities.
“I was a graduate of one of the finest medical universities in Pakistan. Belonging to a traditional middle class family where girls were wed by the age of 23 and so I was too. After one year of my marriage, I conceived my daughter but was firmly asked to quit my institution as they did not have policy on how female doctors can continue their degree even after having children in the field of radiology. It was then that I felt the pain of a woman who gives 23 years of her life living a dream only for it to be sabotaged by the society.
It was in one of those moments of extreme clarity when I realized that my purpose in life was to find a path to serve the marginalized and these doctors in a way that not only empowered me as a female but also millions of females out there who need a helping hand – a hand which can guide them and allow them to fully avail what is a basic right. Thus starts the journey of Sehat Kahani which in English means the story of health,” Sara shares while talking about the inspiration behind starting her platform.
The organization connects female healthcare professionals with people in some of the most under-served communities in Pakistan
Sehat Kahani targets low income communities in Pakistan lacking access to a qualified female doctor, recruit front line female providers (either midwives, lady health workers, visitors) and train them to become a micro entrepreneur in their community.
“These front line providers then connect to home based female doctors via a laptop or a tablet using video conferencing, transmission of still images, e-health including patient portals, remote monitoring of vital signs, continuing medical education, consumer-focused wireless applications and early referrals,” according to Sara.
Sehat Kahani currently has 14 clinics in Sindh, Punjab and KPK under its banner which has served to more than than 40,000 direct customers while continuing to grow and expand these operations and their reach throughout Pakistan.
In the line of their work, political parties are the biggest hindrance for Sara and her team of female healthcare professionals
“One of the most challenging scenarios is to remain apolitical in these communities -Many political parties can influence the clinical activities in the targeted region to justify their political mandate. Sehat Kahani ensures that no endorsement of any political parties is being made at any beneficiary communities. We are develops a steering committee including community leaders and political influencers to avoid any conflicts with the political culture of the targeted communities,” tells Sara.
Despite the challenges, Sara’s plans for connecting those without proper healthcare with trained professionals are ambitious
By 2020, Sehat Kahani plans to establish 50 E-Hubs and 100 E-Spokes across Pakistan to reach even the most remote communities. The plan is to induct 500 community health workers and a network of 10,000 at-home female physicians that would result in a cumulative impact of approx. 8.1 million lives through all the services that the organization will provide.
As Sara puts it, “Sehat Kahani is in the process of launching new services which will not only connect female doctors to patients in under-served areas via nurse assisted care but take our vision one step forward by creating an integrated system of health care for people within Pakistan by connecting them to clinical services, laboratory, pharmacy and preventive care in one holistic loop.”
Powering through challenges, like political opposition, and connecting Pakistan to professionals that can deal with healthcare emergencies is a cause everyone needs to get behind.
For more stories from our series about extraordinary Pakistanis check out “14 Days, 14 Stories“.