Harmony in Health: Insights from the Third BUHN Virtual Seminar on Urban Health and Climate Resilience in Bangladesh

Harmony in Health: Insights from the Third BUHN Virtual Seminar on Urban Health and Climate Resilience in Bangladesh

The Third Bi-weekly Knowledge Sharing Virtual Seminar Session on Urban Health and Climate Resilience, orchestrated by the Bangladesh Urban Health Network (BUHN), unfolded on March 5, 2024, spanning from 8:00 PM (BST) to 9:30 PM (BST) through the Zoom platform. The seminar's comprehensive agenda encapsulated various segments, honoring Md. Ashadul Islam, Former Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), as the Chief Guest, Professor Syed Abdul Hamid from the Institute of Health Economics, University of Dhaka, and Dr. Sharmin Mizan, Deputy Project Director (Service Delivery) at the Project Management Unit, UPHCSDP-II, as the panelist. Dr. Ikhtiar Uddin Khandaker, Director (Health Program) at CARE Bangladesh, and Fatema Showkot Jahan Rojy, Senior Deputy Director at Partners in Health and Development (PHD), gave presentation on “Urban Health Program: CARE Bangladesh Experience”and “Enhancing Climate-Resilient Urban Health in Bangladesh” respectively.  The Seminar commencing with a Welcome Speech by Dr. Magrub Jahangir, Health Officer at UNICEF and Technical Support Team Member of BUHN. 

In the Presentation of Dr. Ikhtiar Uddin Khandaker, Director (Health Program) at CARE Bangladesh, presented the "Urban Health Program: CARE Bangladesh, he highlighted highlighting the organization's urban shift in the garment industry, showcasing impactful projects that improved healthcare, working conditions, and reduced absenteeism through involvement of factory management and community support groups, leading to increased productivity and quality, while emphasizing gender empowerment for female workers and support for migrants. Furthermore, In 2nd Presentation, Fatema Showkot Jahan Rojy, Senior Deputy Director at Partners in Health and Development (PHD addressed the escalating impact of climate change, highlighting the prevalence of diseases in densely populated areas, emphasizing challenges for women, migrants, and vulnerable groups, and proposing a comprehensive operational framework for climate-resilient health systems, including leadership, governance, a skilled climate-informed workforce, and risk assessment, while stressing the importance of client feedback and continuous quality improvement.

The ensuing Panel Discussion witnessed Professor Syed Abdul Hamid from the Institute of Health Economics, University of Dhaka, commending CARE Bangladesh for its impactful and cost-effective work on climate change and health, expressing concern about the inadequate attention to health in policy documents and urged policymakers to heed suggestions from discussions. The discussion further unfolded with Dr. Sharmin Mizan, Deputy Project Director (Service Delivery) at the Project Management Unit, UPHCSDP-II, highlighted the vital integration of public health with infrastructure for mitigating climate impacts in urban areas, advocating for vulnerability assessments in construction and projects to ensure resilience against natural disasters, and discussed the role of the Urban Primary Healthcare Service Delivery Project, including initiatives like rainwater harvesting, energy conservation, and knowledge sharing to address climate-related health issues.

The Open Discussion/Q&A Session provided a platform for diverse perspectives. Prof. Khondaker A. Mamun, Founder of CMED Health, proposed the creation of a mapping system to identify areas of expertise within organizations, emphasizing the need for initiatives combating climate change and improving health. Emranul Haq, Consortium Programme Manager at Concern Worldwide, emphasized the importance of raising awareness and initiating discussions about urban health and climate change resilience in Bangladesh. Shaikh Masudul Alam, Program Director of Bangladesh Health Watch, stressed the significance of clarity in the government's mechanism for urban health and recommended the inclusion of specific recommendations in the upcoming Operational Plan (OP) for the benefit of the urban population.

The Seminar's climactic moment arrived with the speech by the Chief Guest, Md. Ashadul Islam, Former Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), underscored the importance of innovation in healthcare and environmental efforts, proposing the creation of a platform to address emerging issues, emphasizing healthcare's delicate nature, and advocating for collaboration with the local government and Ministry of Health, while suggesting the formation of a technical group to develop recommendations for the Minister of Health and Family Welfare and the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development & Co-operatives.

Finally, during the Closing Remarks, Dr. Abu Jamil Faisel, Chairman & Treasurer of Health 21, expressed gratitude to all participants for attending the seminar and proposed the formation of a small technical group to review ideas and recommend them to the MoHFW & MoLGRD&Co, emphasized the need to develop plans and programs addressing urban health and climate change issues.

In conclusion, the decisions emerging from the seminar, ranging from promoting collaboration among organizations to advocating for policy guidelines and the formation of a technical group, reflect a collective commitment to fostering sustainable solutions for the well-being of urban communities amidst the challenges posed by climate change.