Health summit paves way for Africa's revival

A nurse vaccinates a woman against Covid-19 at Kemri, Apri l7, 2021. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

In the dynamic landscape of global health, Africa stands as a continent uniquely characterised by myriad challenges and untapped potential. This complex backdrop significantly elevates the importance of the Conference on Public Health in Africa (CPHIA), 2023.

Organised by the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Zambia, the summit is not just a meeting of minds but a convergence of visions aimed at reshaping the continent's public health narrative.

A dynamic interplay of innovation, policy reforms and community engagement marks the continent’s journey towards a resilient and equitable health system.  

The persistent issue of pandemic preparedness and response is an example of the hurdles Africa faces. Covid-19 showed the continent's vulnerability. But it also highlighted an opportunity – the potential to lead in pandemic preparedness. This is not just about stockpiling vaccines or developing infrastructure; it’s about financing mechanisms that can withstand the pressures of a health crisis.

Amref's focus on strengthening public financial management reforms in Kenya's decentralised system is a testament to the innovative approaches being adopted to unlock funds flow. Such initiatives are crucial as they pave the way for a sustainable health financing model that can weather the storms of future pandemics.

The conversation cannot be complete without addressing the need for local production of health products. Reliance on external sources for vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics has not only been a barrier to timely access to essential products but has also hindered the development of local industries. By fostering African-led innovation, the continent can achieve a dual goal – improving health outcomes and boosting its economic landscape.  

Universal Health Coverage (UHC) remains a cornerstone of health equity. In Africa, delivering UHC means navigating a landscape marked by many healthcare needs and limited resources. The goal is to build systems that are not just robust but are inherently equitable – systems where every individual, regardless of their socio-economic status, has access to quality healthcare.  

Gender equity is another critical area. In many African societies, girls and women face unique health challenges, often exacerbated by socio-cultural factors. Ensuring access to adequate healthcare for this demographic is not just about providing services; it’s about empowering them, recognising their rights, and addressing the specific health issues they face.

Africa’s health security is also intricately linked to global health security. The continent’s approach to health emergencies, biosecurity and climate change impacts not just its own populations but has far-reaching implications. Developing multi-sectoral response mechanisms and enhancing preparedness are essential.

The digital revolution has the potential to leapfrog traditional barriers, offering solutions that are scalable, cost-effective and far-reaching. Whether it’s through telemedicine, digital health records or mobile health applications, technology can be a game-changer in improving healthcare delivery and access across the continent.

Engaging civil society, the private sector, and local philanthropy is crucial in this journey. A whole-of-society approach is needed to address the complex health challenges facing the continent.  

Combatting infectious diseases, Neglected Tropical Diseases, the silent epidemics of Non-Communicable Diseases, mental health and injuries is equally important. These diseases continue to pose a significant health burden.

The outcomes of CPHIA 2023 are expected to resonate far beyond the conference, shaping the future of public health on the continent and contributing to global health discourse.

The writer is a monitoring, evaluation and learning officer at Amref Health Africa in Kenya.