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HHS Secretary Visits Pakistan

August 20, 2008 – U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Mike Leavitt has completed an historic, two-day visit to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.  The Secretary engaged the senior-most officials in the Pakistani Government on pandemic-influenza preparedness, polio eradication, hepatitis and vaccine development.  He also had in-depth interactions with Pakistani scientists and public-health professionals who are benefiting from HHS training and research investments.


In the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, Secretary met with Minister of Information, Broadcasting and Health Sherry Rehman and Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani to discuss how the two countries could deepen their cooperation in biosecurity, the control of infectious diseases, and the delivery of health care in underserved areas.  Secretary Leavitt offered assistance as the Gilani Government drafts a law to create an autonomous drug-regulatory authority, and expressed his willingness to explore the transfer to Pakistan of technology to produce a vaccine against hepatitis E.


The Secretary and Pakistani Director-General for Health Rashid Jooma, Ph.D., flew by helicopter to the northern area of Azad Kashmir, severely damaged by a massive earthquake in October of 2005, to review progress in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of health centers and schools funded by the U.S. Government.  Secretary Leavitt inspected the rebuilding of a Basic Health Unit in the community of Bagh, and met with village elders and the community committee that is overseeing the construction and management of the site, a project financed by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).  He also inaugurated a project to teach local doctors and nurses essential obstetric care, key to bringing down traditionally high rates of maternal mortality.  In Fiscal Year 2007, the U.S. Government spend over $50 million on earthquake-reconstruction projects in Pakistan.


The Secretary capped his time in Islamabad by visiting the Pakistani National Institute of Health (P-NIH), part of the Federal Ministry of Health and HHS' primary cooperative partner in the country.  Secretary Leavitt began his afternoon at the P-NIH by meeting with public-health officials from each of Pakistan's Provinces and Federally Administered Areas who are participating in a Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program conducted by the HHS Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and funded by the U.S. Department of State and USAID.  He then discussed pandemic-influenza preparedness with Pakistani officials, especially in light of the cases of human infection with the H5N1 strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza that occurred in late 2007.


The next day, Secretary Leavitt became the first U.S. Cabinet-level visitor to the city of Karachi in a generation.  He spoke to faculty and staff at Aga Khan University (AKU), and participated in a roundtable with recipients of grants from the HHS National Institutes of Health who are teaching and working at AKU.

Last revised: September 09, 2008