AKU’s Department of Community Health Sciences, working with the Governments of Pakistan and Sindh province, as well as NGOs, has cut malnutrition in half in some of the poorest districts of the country. A community health worker conducts a survey on women’s health in a poor district of Karachi.
Photo: AKDN / Gary Otte
The major determinants of health may be well known, but the relative importance of each – and the amount of resources dedicated to them – is often determined at the local level. Not surprisingly, the health concerns of the developed world – where much of cutting-edge research is conducted – are not always the same as the developing world.
“What we call our Quality of Life Assessments go beyond simple economic measurements – considering the broad array of conditions, quantitative and qualitative – which the poor themselves take into account when they assess their own well-being.”
Speech by His Highness the Aga Khan at the Global Philanthropy Forum, 23 April 2009
To address this problem, the Aga Khan University (AKU) was set up as a “problem-solving university” with a mandate to conduct research that was relevant to the problems of the developing world. AKU’s research has grappled with some of the more urgent health issues in developing countries, including maternal and child health, nutrition, HIV/AIDs and tuberculosis.
As part of an approach that combines research with healthcare programmes that address research findings, AKU has engaged ultra-poor inner-city neighbourhoods in participatory forms of preventative care. These efforts, which reach out to a quarter of a million people within the city and over six million across the country, have reduced diarrhoeal diseases and infant deaths substantially. These programmes now serve as models throughout Pakistan and other developing countries.