Using technology to reimagine how health care is delivered to the most vulnerable people in Pakistan is an initiative by 24 year old Muhammad Sarim Raza.
With almost 70% of the Pakistani population living in underserved rural areas, where there is lack of medical personnel, sparse healthcare facilities, and high cost of treatments.
Muhammad Sarim Raza, the founder of a social enterprise called Riayat, and also coordinates the Youth Action Hub Pakistan, an UNCTAD youth network of young change makers running innovative programmes to improve the lives of local people; has partnered with Idara al Khair, a local nonprofit organization, to improve healthcare coverage for rural dwellers.
Using telehealth to provide healthcare services via electronic information and telecommunication technologies, they offer virtual medical consultations to patients in remote locations, and in the comfort of their homes. ‘Many people cannot afford to physically go to a doctor. Our e-health initiative makes consultations affordable and available to low-income communities’, Mr. Raza said.
At the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak in the country, his team created an e-health platform and mobilised local teachers to conduct door-to-door visits to introduce residents to it, offering general medical check-ups free of charge. They also established an e-clinic at a local school and organized a virtual workshop to train the teachers on how to register patients on the platform and book appointments with doctors. A psychologist trained the teachers on how to identify mental health problems such as stress, anxiety and depression.
The team visited 90 families comprising about 540 people and registered them on the platform. They found that many people did not know the benefits of good mental health. ‘They believed that if physical needs were met, mental health did not matter’, Mr. Raza said.
Today, the e-clinic has evolved into a subsidised medical centre with doctors, nurses and technicians. With specialised care and emergency treatments now available to the local community, the number of patients is steadily growing. Mr. Raza is committed to using technology for good – expanding access to health care, education and employment opportunities for all.
His enterprise’s first project involved distributing food supplies to more than 300 low-income households around Karachi, Lahore and Multan cities in Pakistan to tackle hunger, while creating awareness on how to curb the spread of COVID-19. During the project, he identified weak internet connectivity and the lack of digital literacy as key barriers for many people. He then mobilised Youth Action Hub Pakistan to launch the ‘Right to Technology’ initiative to advocate for digital inclusion.