A vision for transformative ownership and capacity building for Africa’s health
The previous discussion topic on creating synergies and building capacity for Africa’s health has generated a vibrant debate which resulted positive actions which continue up to now. So let us carry on. Genuine dialogue is taking place over the four meetings on health workers and MDG 4 and 5 and led to a coordination meeting in Nairobi convened by GHWA and the APHRH. A synthesis document on the collective outcome of the four meetings was circulated in Tunis last week at the conference of African Health and Finance Ministers. What a fantastic achievement! Congratulations are due to Ashgovnet members and Development partners for demonstrating our ability to be synergistic.
There was also a positive result on the initiative to establish Networks which were discussed in the same May 2012 topic. A meeting took place in Bellagio, Italy during the third week of June, 2012 where African representatives of some of the existing Networks met with representatives from the African Union Commission, NEPAD, Regional Health Communities, WHO AFRO, Health Policy Research bodies, Universities, civil society and some development partners. Agreement was reached to establish an overarching Network of Networks on health systems. This is expected to serve as a resource and repository of knowledge and evidence from which African political leaders can draw upon as well a continuing source of expertise. This network of networks should fill an African capacity gap in our quest for locally available and relevant knowledge. It should also provide a forum for advocating for knowledge translation and routine use. So what next?
The vision for transformation that we seek will see Africa with an entrenched culture that insists on the routine use of locally relevant and available evidence to inform policy. Not only that, we see Africa where those policies are implemented to scale in all and not just some African countries. How can we create these capacities and culture in all countries for this vision to become a reality? The Strong Ministries for Strong Health Systems study report proposes a partnership between governments and Health Partner Resource Institutions (HRPIs) outside ministries but inside the countries. HRPIs include universities, professional associations, media, parliament, think tanks, academies, research centers, civil society advocacy groups etc. ACHEST has mapped these HRPIs in five African countries and found that they actually exist with resident expertise and talent and that their respective governments are willing to work together with the HRPIs. However, HRPIs are currently not being fully utilized. Ideally HRPIs will be country chapters of the continental networks which enable cross country learning and capacity development and are linked to global counterparts.
If countries, regional and international networks and development partners pull together to build the capacity of HRPIs in each and every country and their respective continental networks, the transformation that we seek will be realized very quickly. HRPIs will ensure that the visibility of the national health agenda does not drop by leveraging the leadership of well informed local champions and resources by informing and inspiring their governments. The performance of health systems will improve resulting in better health outcomes and the achievement of globally agreed goals with sustainability.
The genuine and positive dialogue that is taking place within and beyond Ashgovnet readership is timely and encouraging. I am aware that a number of development partners are part of this readership and are already implementing this proposed approach and subscribe to these debates. I welcome their insights. As for the African subscribers; does this make sense? Together, how can we improve this vision?