The Aga Khan Health Services operates 325 health centres, dispensaries and other community outlets; 15 first-level referral facilities including diagnostic centres, rural medical and maternal-care centres; as well as six general and three women's hospitals. It provides or supports primary health-care services to populations totalling one million and handles approximately 1.2 million patient visits annually.
Organised in the form of national service companies in Pakistan, India, Tajikistan, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, these health facilities are also linked internationally through Network-wide policies and strategies in primary health care, clinical services, nursing development and human resource management. Increasingly, the national service companies are working with government health services and other institutions to improve and build effective national health systems. For example, in Pakistan, Aga Khan Health Services (AKHS) provides technical assistance to a World Bank-supported programme to strengthen the capacity of government health services in supporting community-based health initiatives. In Tajikistan, AKHS is collaborating with government hospitals in Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast to rationalise, rehabilitate and modernise clinical practice and nursing care. Many of these partnerships involve close collaboration with Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) and Aga Khan University (AKU) institutions.
The primary health-care programmes are designed to reach vulnerable groups, especially rural and remote communities, and lower middle-income urban families. Health promotion and disease prevention are at the core of all programmes. While reproductive health, immunisation and integrated management of childhood illnesses are the main priorities, adult health (cardiovascular disease, diabetes, selected cancers and mental health) is a sector of activity in many of the areas served. Experience with primary health care within the Aga Khan Development Network, where AKHS works closely with both AKF and AKU, has confirmed the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of primary health care in improving health status.
In the absence of other quality providers, AKHS complements its work in primary health care by offering curative services in institutions ranging from dispensaries through health centres and women's hospitals to full-service hospitals. At each level of care, AKHS focuses on providing services that are needed and wanted by the community. It also aims to ensure a quality of care that significantly raises local standards. Measures taken to improve quality include awareness training, clinical governance, organizational audit and accreditation, evidence-based practice, and continuing education of nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers.
Many AKHS initiatives originally came to exist through the energy, dedication and skills of volunteers. Both volunteers and professional staff are essential to the functioning of AKHS today. The governance of national service companies and individual institutions depends on volunteers, who serve on boards and who are involved in elaborating the policy and overall direction of the respective companies and institutions. In many places, the day-to-day operation and functioning of institutions are supported by service volunteers, who fill positions that would otherwise require paid employees. In addition, volunteers are involved at the programmatic level, as in Gorno-Badakhshan, where physicians from North America and Europe have teamed up with their Tajik counterparts in hospitals for regular training over several years.
For more information, please visit the AKDN website.