The government has so far established more than 14,000 community clinics in public-private partnerships across the country to provide basic healthcare to the people.
Bangladesh got unique recognition at the United Nations on May 17 this year when its Community Clinic concept got global recognition. A resolution on community-based healthcare was adopted unanimously by the United Nations. The historic resolution titled 'Community-Based Primary Health Care: A Participatory and Inclusive Approach to Achieving Universal Health Services' gave international recognition to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's innovative leadership in establishing a community clinic-based model of primary health care in Bangladesh in a public-private partnership.
In the resolution proposed by Bangladesh, member states of the United Nations recognized the successful initiative of PM Sheikh Hasina in establishing community clinics and referred to this as 'The Sheikh Hasina Initiative'. It reflects Bangladesh's strong commitment to improving public health and bringing equity to global healthcare. Ambassador Mohammad Abdul Muhit, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations, said while presenting the resolution in the General Assembly. The resolution was co-sponsored by 70 member states in strong support of community clinic-based health systems.
Community clinics filling the gap
Since their inception, community clinics have been playing an epoch-making role in improving overall antenatal and postnatal care, family planning and nutritional services, providing treatment for diarrhea, pneumonia and other childhood infections, and counseling on the consequences of early marriage in Bangladesh.
Muhith in his speech highlighted the positive impact of this resolution in achieving universal health services. He referred to the approval of this resolution by the UN member states as an "unforgettable milestone" in the global effort to achieve universal health care by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It invites international financial institutions, multilateral and regional development banks and donors to provide appropriate technical and financial support for the introduction and implementation of this community clinic-based model health system in member countries, especially in developing countries.
Sheikh Hasina came to power in 1996 and launched the first model community clinic for a universal health care system. Marginalized communities were first provided access to health care through community clinics. These clinics were shut down as unviable when the BNP came to power in 2001. After returning to power in 2008, Hasina revived the community clinics in 2009.
There are more than 14,000 community clinics at present in the country and the numbers are gradually growing. The successful operation of community clinics, especially in rural areas, depends on people with the required skills. Doctors must be trained and motivated to work in rural areas and the government should offer adequate incentives to them.
For further development of community clinics in the country, the involvement of both public and private organisations is crucial. Corporate houses can play an effective role by spending a portion of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) fund to develop the country’s healthcare sector. Also, there is a need to motivate rural people to first avail of health services at the community clinics instead of travelling long distances to city hospitals.
(The author, a Ph.D. candidate in refugee affairs at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, .is a women's rights activist. Views are personal. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)