Bringing physical activity to rural communities through a multi-day ReLAB-HS training event in Pakistan

The experience of participating in an interactive exercise promotion programme during a recent multi-day training event in Pakistan sparked numerous physical activity projects that will reach communities far beyond the meeting participants and have a lasting impact in rural Pakistan.

As part of the Relab-HS Clinical Skills Training Program, a 3-day in-person meeting was held in Pakistan in February to promote physical activities in communities. It was hosted by Ziauddin University and other Karachi based organisations including the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disability (DEPD) and brought together an interdisciplinary group of 18 participants from two provinces in Pakistan; KP and Sindh.

The hugely interactive meeting was hosted by Neelum Zehra, occupational therapist and ReLAB-HS Educational representative for Pakistan along with Professor Dr Sumaira Imran Farouqui (Dean Faculty of Allied Health Sciences) and Abid Khan (physiotherapist and Assistant Professor) from Ziauddin University. It was an opportunity to discuss and practice techniques and hands-on skills after participants completed the Physiopedia Plus online Physical Activity Programme in preparation.

This meeting was all about participation and the experience of taking part in an exercise programme – including the emotional, mental and physical health benefits. The goal was to support participants in being able to integrate exercise into their own routine and their clinical practice in community settings.  

Overall, the training was highly beneficial, informative and has contributed to my professional development in clinical skills. Thank you ReLAB-HS, USAID and Ziauddin University trainier and faculty members.

With a focus on interprofessional collaboration and problem solving of the practical hurdles involed in integrating exercise into varied groups in the community (with consideration of limited resources), the group were well set up to take this training into their own settings.

Thank you ReLAB-HS, Ziauddin University, facilitators and other partners for the effective training program. I learned new ways to integrate my skills in community based rehabilitation programs. 

The real success of this meeting has been well and truly demonstrated when participants were optionally invited to feed back on any projects they are planning to implement in their own communities.  So far four such projects have been presented back to the group, each focusing on a different community group and each with a different approach to increasing physical activity and exercise amongst the chosen community.

Thank you to the facilitator and participants it was a great experience to learn from all of you. These sort of training build interprofessional collaboration and enhance practitioner to improve his/her self and community too.

Thanks to the information and skills learnt in the training event, participants are planning exercise programmes during Ramadan amongst faculty at Ziauddin University and in a prison to increase physical activity amongst inmates with HIV. A programme to educate University students about the value of exercise is planned as well as a project to raise awareness of the benefits of physical activity for stroke survivors and their families in Swat region, Pakistan. All projects used a multidisciplinary approach in their implementation.

This was the second in-person training conducted in Pakistan as part of the ReLAB-HS Clinical Skills Training program and the first to be conducted at Ziauddin University. As a result of this programme the participants are empowered to support patients in integrating more physical activity into their daily routines, as well as in more effectively contributing to the rehabilitation of patients.

It was a nice gathering, family like environment and well trained staff. We learn much more from this unique hands on training technique. The way of your teaching was outstanding. All the trainers were well qualified and have a strong command on their topics. I’m extremely thankful to Relab-HS, Martina Lukin, Neelum Zehra, Ziauddin University faculty and all the organization to give us this golden opportunity. It was a memorable training. We will definitely utilize this techniques and skills to help persons with various disability and other geriatric population in our community.

Meeting in-person enabled useful discussion and information sharing that is a rare occurrence in Pakistan, particularly across the provinces. It is an excellent example of how hybrid online learning followed by in-person clinical skills training can inspire and motivate rehabilitation professionals to implement new initiatives in their own setting – therefore giving far-reaching benefits to their communities and beyond.

This work is supported by the USAID funded Learning Acting Building for Rehabilitation in Health Systems (ReLAB-HS) project and is not possible without the generous and committed contribution of the Leahy War Victims fund.

ReLAB-HS is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and is implemented under cooperative agreement number 7200AA20CA00033. The consortium is managed by prime recipient, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.