Pakistan’s first ever institute to tackle vitamin D deficiency was inaugurated in Punjab on Thursday.
It is a joint venture between the University of Health Sciences (UHS) Lahore, Pakistan Society of Internal Medicine (PSIM) and pharmaceutical firm Pharmevo Limited.
The academy will train physicians and healthcare providers about the importance of vitamin D and spread awareness about its role in the prevention and treatment of disease.
It will have a national multidisciplinary advisory committee of 21 members.
Guidelines on vitamin D supplementation and administration will be prepared in consultation with national and international health experts, said Vice-Chancellor UHS Professor Dr Javed Akram.
Physicians would be trained to use this supplement, he added.
Vitamin D deficiency is a serious challenge in the country. “It is an alarming situation where around 85% of Pakistani population is facing vitamin D deficiency, which is exposing them to various communicable and non-communicable diseases,” said Punjab Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar on the occasion.
The governor said that vitamin D deficiency has remained a neglected topic despite numerous studies highlighting its importance for growth in children and prevention from diseases. He said it should be given equal importance as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.
Dr Akram said COVID-19 had highlighted Pakistan’s inherent vitamin D deficiency.
“Studies conducted by us at UHS have revealed that low vitamin D levels not only increase the chances of getting infected with COVID-19 but chances of having severe disease also increase manifolds. We have found that death rate triples among people with severe vitamin D deficiency”, Dr Akram added.
He said his team might use vitamin D during clinical trials of upcoming vaccines against COVID-19. The academy would practice new techniques in the treatment of infectious and non-communicable diseases.
Governor Sarwar said there was an urgent need for interaction between provinces on such health initiatives.
“We should rise above politics and help each other. Every province of Pakistan has something to offer and I’m willing to become a bridge between our provinces and federating units. I remain in touch with CMs and governors of other provinces and will soon visit Sindh, KP, and Balochistan to take this idea of Vitamin D Academy to the national level”, he added.
He thanked frontline health workers and urged people to follow SOPs as beds with oxygen were almost filled in Punjab. A shortage of medicines and other essential items was also being reported due to the burden on the healthcare system.
Around one billion people in the world have vitamin D deficiency, especially in South Asia.
We have launched the Vitamin D Academy to initiate research on this important micronutrient and train physicians on its importance, said Pharmevo Managing Director Haroon Qassim.
Pharmevo CEO Syed Jamshed Ahmed said that they had plans to create diabetes, hypertension, and hepatitis academies as well.
“We believe in promoting knowledge and enhanced collaboration between industry and academia to provide cost-effective health solutions to the people of Pakistan”, he added.