Nairobi, Nov 26, 2014
The first Amref Health Africa International Conference came to an end today in Nairobi, with participants calling on African governments to put in place enabling policies, invest in quality health services and show greater political will to address the root causes of ill health.
A communiqué issued at the close of the three-day conference themed From Evidence to Action – Lasting Health Change in Africa urged governments to urgently create the policy framework, legislation and investment to rapidly improve health research output in the continent.
The conference resolved that implementers, researchers and policy makers must create platforms to ensure research is translated into evidence-based policy making and action to improve health in Africa.
“All stakeholders in health in Africa must stop business-as-usual development and adopt evidence-based action to create lasting health change in Africa,”
stated the communiqué read by the Director of Policy and Planning, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in Tanzania, Mr Rubona Josebart.
The conference noted that persistent inequalities in health status require greater focus on strengthening health systems that respond to challenges in maternal health, child health, major communicable and infectious diseases, and non-communicable diseases.
“Nutrition is such a serious multi-sectoral issue that requires its own Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the post-2015 era, and the third SDG should address the neglected health problems of the young and aging African populations,”
said the communiqué.
Other resolutions include integrating community health workers in the formal health workforce in African countries instead of being seen as a stop-gap measure.
Participants called for accountability, efficiency, value for money and transparent tracking of health expenditure in use of health care resources by public and private health stakeholders.
During the conference, it was noted that although Africa has made progress in improving health in the MDG era, the targets have yet to be achieved.
Speaking at the closing ceremony, Amref Health Africa Director General Dr Teguest Guerma stressed the need to have the community as the foundation of the health system while developing programmes and setting priorities for the continent.
“Without strengthening health systems and community participation and ownership, we will never be able to achieve universal health coverage,”
said Dr Guerma.
She said young African researchers should be motivated and supported to become part of the process of bringing lasting change to health in Africa.
World Health Organization (WHO) Representative in Kenya Dr Custodia Mandlhate, lamented lack of new research knowledge and solutions for addressing health challenges in Africa.
From WHO figures, 23 out of 47 countries lack functional health research systems, 24 out of 47 have no health research policy while others do not have budget lines, personnel and platforms for communicating research.
“Africa contributes minimally to the global research agenda despite hosting 12 per cent of global population,”
East African Community (EAC) Principal Health Officer Dr Stanley Sonoiya, who officiated at the closing ceremony, said Africa would be able to achieve lasting health change through innovation and use of new technologies.
Dr Sonoiya blamed challenges facing the health sector in the continent on failure to implement new ideas and strategies that are responsive to the needs of communities.
He disclosed that the EAC is in the process of strengthening its health research commission to scale up collection of evidence for solutions to problems affecting the region.
Dr Sonaiya commended Amref Health Africa for its work at community level, including its focus on primary health care, which had made a huge difference in health on the communities. He pledged his support for the organisation’s international Stand Up for African Mothers campaign, noting that it was a very practical way to reduce maternal mortality on the continent.
“We should all support this campaign. I encourage everyone to sign their support for the nomination of Ugandan midwife Esther Madudu for the Nobel Peace Prize, and also to make a contribution to train more midwives, so that we can save the lives of mothers and children.”