The African Center for Global Health and Social Transformation(ACHEST) participated at the first World Health Summit (WHS) Africa Regional Meeting held virtually on June 27-June 29 2021.
The summit was hosted by Makerere University as a member of the global M8 Alliance of Academic Health Centers, Universities and National Academies. in Kampala, Uganda. This is the first time that the WHS has been held on African soil. The Summit was opening ceremony was addressed by President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Dr Tedros , the Director General of WHO.
Topics of discussion included Africa’s progress towards Universal Health Coverage(UHC) and Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs), The Health of the African Youth, Advancing Technology for Health in Africa, Infectious Diseases and Global Health Security, COVID-19 pandemic, Stemming the Tide of Non-Communicable Diseases in Low- and Middle-Income Countries and Inter-Sectoral Collaboration for Health, the Global Health Workforce Crisis among others.
The ACHEST Executive Director Prof Francis Omaswa delivered the key note address during the session on Africa’s journey towards achieving the Universal Health Coverage(UHC).
He regretted that the biggest downfall of post-independence Africa has been African populations and their leaders accepting to live normally with the intolerable.
“ When a child or woman dies, we say God has called them. We must get away from that. We have accepted to live normally with the intolerable. Africa is registering much worse indices than the other regions in the world. We must feel the pain and be ashamed of this,” said Prof. Omaswa.
Quoting former President Barrack Obama, who said the “the future of Africa is up to Africa.” Omaswa called for strong governments, and leadership; and a new paradigm on health as central to economic and social development, and not a consumptive cost sector as has been previously taught by the “economics of greed.”
“It is possible to achieve good health at a low cost. Africa must stop being a continent for global pity,” stressed Prof. Omaswa
He urged research and knowledge generators to ensure that they are responding to the needs of the people to gain approval by politicians. “That is the triangle that moves mountains- people’s needs, knowledge generators and politicians.”
During the summit, Prof. Omaswa also chaired two sessions – The global health workforce crisis; and another on Universal access to quality surgical care.
The ACHEST Director Health Systems Dr. David Okello also made a presentation on the session on non-communicable diseases and injuries(NCDIs).
He explained that SDGs are integrated, interconnected, indivisible and are therefore best implemented through intersectoral collaboration. Similarly, the work on NCDIs cannot be advanced by the health sector alone.
“We need multi-sectoral collaboration, whole of Government and whole of society approach. Full engagement of the community is critical – with involvement of local leaders, religious and clan leaders, civil society, private sectors, civil servants, health development partners active in communities, etc,” Dr. Okello noted, adding that “unless it is owned by people it will not happen.”
This rhymes well with a famous quote by a community health expert, Prof. Miriam Were, “In Africa if it doesn’t happen in communities, it doesn’t happen,” and another quote by Prof. Omaswa, “Health is Made at Home and only repaired in hospitals when it breaks down.”
Without ownership, there is, among other problems, loss of self-confidence, self-determination and erosion of accountability as health is perceived to be taken care of by someone else – mainly by donors.
Uganda launched the NCDI Commission in 2019 to strengthen ongoing efforts to build an investment case for the prioritization, increased financing and improved service delivery for NCDIs.
Besides this initiative, Dr. Okello called for the need to put emphasis on health promotion, disease prevention and screening for early detection.
For details on these topics and more, visit www.worldhealthsummit.org
Compiled by Carol Natukunda, Communications Specialist, ACHEST