Can the world emulate Bangladesh’s ‘Community Clinic’ model?

A unique achievement of Bangladesh come through the United Nations on May 17 this year. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s initiative ‘Community Clinic’ got global recognition.

By Nandita Roy

A resolution on community-based healthcare was adopted unanimously at the United Nations on Wednesday. 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 outstanding 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, the member states of the United Nations widely recognized the successful innovative initiative of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in establishing community clinics and referred to this initiative as ‘The Sheikh Hasina Initiative’. It reflects Bangladesh’s strong commitment to improving public healthcare and bringing equity to global healthcare. Ambassador Mohammad Abdul Muhit, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations, presented the resolution in the General Assembly yesterday. The resolution was co-sponsored by 70 member states of the United Nations in strong support of community clinic-based health systems.

Gone are the days when rural people of Bangladesh had to go through immense suffering from various diseases. There was no healthcare center for treating the grassroots of the country but at present one will find community clinics almost in every upazila of Bangladesh.

Community clinics in the country have become a reference point as to how a country can successfully raise primary healthcare following the Bangladesh model. There are more than 14,000 community clinics at present in the country and the number is gradually increasing. Now what is needed is to ensure comprehensive healthcare services to the rural people, and in order to do that the government should look forward to equipping the clinics with adequate facilities and skilled manpower. 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.

Community clinics are largely filling the gap in  public healthcare system

Since its 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. With the integration of the ‘Community Clinic Health Assistance Trust Act’, millions of people are getting services from community clinics whereas just a decade ago healthcare facilities in rural areas were very poor.

The incumbent government deserves kudos for its relentless effort for prioritizing the need for incorporating community clinics. As a consequence, community clinics are largely filling the gap in the public healthcare system.

For further development of community clinics in the country, the intervention of both public and private organizations is crucial. In this regard, 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 the rural people for availing health services at the community clinic.

Ambassador 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.

He said that the successful implementation of the resolution will play an important role in improving the health care of billions of people in the world by introducing a community clinic-based health system.

He also said that the resolution has far-reaching implications in increasing international cooperation for achieving universal health services and the United Nations Development Goals. Because 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. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina launched this unique community clinic-based health system in Bangladesh in 1998 with the aim of bringing all the people of Bangladesh under primary health care, which has revolutionized the provision of primary health care benefits by the government at the doorsteps of people at the grassroots level across the country. The government has so far established more than 14,000 community clinics in public private partnerships across the country to provide uninterrupted healthcare to the people. This recognition will brighten our image in the international arena in the indomitable development progress of Bangladesh under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

On behalf of the Bangladesh Permanent Mission to the United Nations, the resolution was negotiated with the member states by the present representative. Md. Manowar Hossain. The Mission has been playing an important role in health diplomacy for the past few years and in continuation of this resolution the Mission proposed earlier this year for the consideration of the Member States. After four months of intensive discussions and negotiations with the member states, the proposal was unanimously accepted. 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, which were later closed when the BNP came to power in 2001. The door to health care was closed to the people. After coming to power through the election in 2008, the philosophical statesman Sheikh Hasina started this community clinic again in 2009. He saw that the authority projects; So, so he implemented them seriously. He invented a model to bring healthcare to everyone. He saw that there is no institutional form to bring everyone under health care. He then developed the community clinic model for universal healthcare. He said 25-26 minutes walking distance to one health care clinic. There HSC pass people can be trained to provide first aid and from there they can be referred to Upazila Health Complex and District Health Complex. In fact, if universal healthcare is to reach people’s doorsteps, community clinics are the only model. That’s why the United Nations has adopted it today—they say, outstanding innovative leadership. The United Nations today recognized Sheikh Hasina’s outstanding innovative leadership internationally and named it ‘The Sheikh Hasina Initiative’. That is, the model that Sheikh Hasina started in 1998, has already been followed by various countries. And on May 17, 2023, this UN proposal paved the way to ensure health for everyone in the world under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina.

Nandita Roy is presently residing in Australia and is originally from Dhaka, Bangladesh, She is a women and refugee’s rights activist and is currently a Ph.D. candidate in refugee affairs at Griffith University in Queensland. She received a master’s degree from the University of Dhaka’s Department of Women and Gender Studies

Pressenza New York