MONROVIA – Ahead of the Africa Center for Disease Control’s annual International Conference on Public Health in Africa, come November 2023 (CPHIA), CDC Chief of Staff and Head of Executive Office, Dr. Ngashi Ngongo, has outlined several ways in strengthening the Universal Health Coverage in Africa.
Speaking in an exclusive visual interview, Dr. Ngongo said the universal health coverage is a priority for Africa’s CDC, especially the strengthening of health services that will help Africa in times of pandemic like Ebola and COVID 19, as Africa once witnessed how Ebola took over the weak health systems in Africa.
“The average universal health coverage index for the world now stands at 68%, and for us in Africa, we are at 43%, which is about 25 points below the global average. That is why it is a top priority because we are still the least. Our approach is the strengthening of primary health care systems, because we all recognized that primary health care is the platform that will help us achieve treatment results and we can improve the health outcomes, which means, we can reduce mortality and increase life acceptances,” He said
The CPHIA 2023, with Theme: “Breaking Barriers: Repositioning Africa in the global health architecture,” is scheduled for 27-30 November 2023 in Lusaka, Zambia, provides a unique African-led platform for leaders across the continent to showcase new and exciting scientific discoveries while advancing programs and policies to create more resilient health systems. CPHIA 2022 in Rwanda focused on the crossroads – between post-pandemic recovery and future pandemic preparedness. It is expected to take a more forward-looking approach, highlighting how stakeholders across the continent are breaking barriers and disrupting the status quo through cutting-edge science and programing.
Dr. Ngongo further said the Africa CDC goes through primary health care systems because of equity focus, in that most African countries including Liberia and many other African countries, have the highest rate of diseases that are among the poorer, the rural and urban, and most of the cases are not addressed, but if there is a primary health care system, it can reach many people, then Africa will be achieving the equity in health care and outcomes.
He stressed that in providing primary health care, the various Head of States are committed to the two million community health workers target on the continent, as the world has recognized that it takes longer to train doctors and nurses, but for basic conditions like malaria, one won’t need a doctor, but if a huge army of community health workers are present, they can address the basic health conditions. And in order to strengthen the Community health systems, Africa CDC usually pushes for the community health workers system. In that it brings community members themselves, to be key players in the prevention of diseases and also in the delivering of services, which is one important pillar that will allow Africa to move towards the target in the two million community health workers.
He further said the most important thing is the financing, because Africa has a problem for not investing enough money in primary health care. And the second thing the Africa CDC is also working on is digital interventions, to have community health workers send in data to be monitored, as there are many emergencies in Africa which needs to be monitored more closely, like Ebola and COVID. But if setting up basic digital health systems at community levels, it will allow a health worker who sees an event, to report that event, so intervention can come much faster before the disease starts spreading and causing more damages, which will require much more money to control.
“Thirdly, if you look at our doctors and specialists, many of them live in urban areas and do not want to go into the rural areas because there are no good conditions, for them there, but we believe that if we can digitalize the system and introduce the telemedicine system, that allows even a nurse in the rural area to call a doctor when she has a case and gets stuck and does not know how to manage that case, the doctor on the other end of the video can guide that nurse how to manage the case,” he said
The Conference will also have a segment for women to be able to speak about health issues affecting them, and how women themselves can address the various devices affecting them.
Speaking about how women are excluded from decision making, Dr. Ngongo said looking at African families or communities; women are the ones who make decisions for health care and women are the ones delivering most of the care and services. But the contradiction is that women are not represented in the decision making especially in leaderships, which is where the gap is, they intend to address that issue heads on at this year’s conference.
“We at Africa CDC have seen the gap and we will ensure that women are to be adequately represented in decision-making platforms. So we have track four at the conference, it is called, ‘for women by women’, and it focuses on women and young girls, looking at their access to health care services on the continent. There also will be the opportunity for them to include the health experiences of women in Africa. We will also talk about the key issue of gender representation in decision-making processes, because it will be the main gathering that will make the difference. And we will also be looking at the solutions on good practices,” he said.