Remedies for a healthier future
As the participants of the regional conference on ‘Engaging the Private Sector in Health in Africa’ attended their final day of presentations, workshops and discussions, one of the day’s headlines from the Tanzanian national paper, The Citizen, underscored the importance of their actions, proclaiming that the Sub-Saharan Africa health sector was ‘on a sick bed’.
The combined effects of poor infrastructure and services, a shortage of medical personnel and a lack of awareness among local communities have indeed created enormous challenges for the mixture of practitioners and policymakers gathering in Dar es Salaam - yet, as the United Nations' 2012 Africa Human Development Report also launched just the day before notes, “history is not destiny…provided that governments move decisively to put in place appropriate policies and support mechanisms.”
This determination and embrace of a ‘can-do’ optimism pervaded the final day of the conference, which showcased a wide range of public-private health interventions that were slowly but surely making a positive difference to the lives of Africans across the continent. These included demand-side approaches such as voucher programmes empowering women to access reproductive health services; social franchising networks connecting local private providers to offer new, higher quality services in exchange for training and support; and innovative mhealth data collection and disease surveillance systems enabled by mobile phone technology.
Bringing together a mixture of donor agencies (including representation from 7 of the 9 HANSHEP members), government ministries, private sector stakeholders (including some of Africa’s largest faith-based health provider networks), academics and medical practitioners provided for a multi-faceted discussion of these initiatives. While the challenges in scaling successful programmes, ensuring sustainability and bringing greater coherence to a highly fragmented and diverse sector were clear, the conference achieved a key objective in spreading awareness of the good practices emerging across the region. The introduction of online resources such as the new Health in Africa Policy Toolkit from the IFC and the Center for Health Market Innovations (a HANSHEP-supported database facilitating the exchange of promising healthcare practices from around the world) also meant that in leaving the conference, delegates felt empowered with avenues of further learning and support.
The challenge now is to ensure that when the public and private next come together in this kind of forum, the headlines in the local media are celebrating the change in Africa’s destiny these stakeholders are committed to achieving.
Click here to read the official Conference Synopsis.
Click here to access all of the presentations made at the conference.
This blog is written in the spirit of generating debate and discussion, and does not necessarily represent the views of the HANSHEP Group or its individual members.