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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Medical body unveils robust public-private business plan

28th February 2012

The African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF) revently launced its bussiness plan that sets the course for AMREF’s focus over the next three years (2011-2014) for greater impact in African and global health.

The plan seeks to transform communities from within by improving the health of women and children through building skills, knowledge and resources required for sustainable health change and enhancing their integration with the existing formal health systems.

Our Staff Writer reports on the plan, which according to Country Director AMREF (Tanzania), Dr Festus Ilako has brought Tanzania one step closer to meeting the health related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), more so for Tanzanian women and children...

Launching the AMREF Business Plan in Dar es Salaam recently, Chairperson of the AMREF Tanzania Advisory Council, Dr. Lucy Nkya expressed concern over the waning donor support in health sector in the country noting that the only way out was for the country was to adopt public-private partnership.

Dr Nkya who is also Deputy Minister for Health and Social Welfare stressed that public-private partnership would make it possible for the country to realise the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015 and bring lasting health change in the country.

She said Tanzania still lagged behind in achieving most of the MDGs, stressing that that more needed to be done to enable the country to attain the goals before the 2015 time limit.

She said that AMREF programmes were highly dependent on external donors and the donor environment and priorities were changing rapidly.

“With donor environment and priorities changing, I am afraid that one day they will not be capable of serving Tanzanians. I am therefore convinced that the way forward is Private-Public Partnerships that is power from within. In fact, you can use the tri-sectoral partnerships between the government, private sector, and civil society to pool local resources to ensure effective and sustainable access to health services, especially for the marginalized and poorest people in remote areas. she said.

Dr. Nkya explained that public-private partnerships involved the government moving away from its traditional role of being a direct provider to the role of an enabler and regulator of service provision by private players.

The launch was preceded by a panel discussion with the theme, “How Best Public-Private Partnerships Can Work Together to Achieve Lasting Health Change in Tanzania.”

Moderated by renowned lawyer Dr.Eva Hawa Sinare, who is also a member of the AMREF Tanzania Advisory Council.

The panel comprised of Ms. Joyce Mhaville, the Managing Director of ITV and Radio One, who spoke from the media point of view; the First Secretary at the Netherlands Embassy, Dr. Rik Peeperkorn, who spoke from donors’ perspective, the Managing Director of Barclays Bank Tanzania, Mr. Kihara Maina, who discussed the topic from the private sector’s side. Dr. Festus Ilako, AMREF Tanzania Country Director, spoke from AMREF Tanzania’s perspective while Ms. Asina Shenduli, Programme Director of the National Muslim Council of Tanzania (BAKWATA) spoke from the standpoint of AMREF’s beneficiaries.

Ms Mhaville said during the session that the media could be valuable partners in health issues rather than just being mere vehicles of disseminating information.

“We can go beyond doing business, educating and informing the public so that they make informed choices. So, let us join forces,” she advised.

Mr. Maina on his part said effective sustainable social responsibility was crucial, adding that private companies would like to know what returns they would get when supporting social causes.

“I’ve gone through AMREF’s business plan and it shows that it is very well thought out. Although private sector looks at the way it can maximize profit it has to aim at socially accepted returns and re-invest by giving back to the community,” Mr. Maina emphasized.

Dr. Peeperkorn, said there had been significant achievements in Tanzania’s health sector in the last ten years and that there is a need now to need to invest in health systems and key stakeholders in the delivery of services and training of health personnel while encouraging performance-based investments.

Ms. Shenduli said the AMREF-BAKWATA partnership had played a key role in changing faith leaders’ perception of HIV/AIDS. Most faith leaders initially viewed HIV/AIDS as an affliction of ‘sinners’.

Dr. Ilako encouraged the private sector to come on board as partners and invest in health activities as it makes business sense.

“Companies cannot do good business if their clients and workforce are not well,” Dr Ilako said. He challenged local companies to contribute more for health saying last year local private companies contributed only one per cent of AMREF Tanzania budget.

He said the private-public partnership should be strengthened to ensure lasting health improvements for Tanzanians because families face duo-jeopardy of paying medical bills and at the same time face stress of poor health. Dr. Ilako said NGOs, Government and Private sector are partners therefore have to pool more resources for the public good.

The business plan is structured around seven priority areas based on AMREF’s 2007-2017 strategy with five strategic directions related to delivering health outcomes, the sixth addresses research and innovation and the seventh outlines the organizational restructuring required to enable AMREF to implement its health priorities.

Priority is given to activities that positively impact the health of women and children and fall within AMREF’s expertise and resources.

The seven strategic directions include making pregnancy safe and expanding reproductive health, reducing morbidity and mortality among children, scaling up HIV, TB and malaria responses, prevention and control of diseases related to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).

Others are increasing access by disadvantaged communities to quality medical, surgical and diagnostic services, developing a strong research and innovation base to contribute to health improvement in Africa and creating a strong, unified, global AMREF.

As for strategic direction number one on making pregnancy safe and expanding reproductive health, increasing the number of skilled midwives to provide basic and comprehensive emergency and obstetric services is key to preventing maternal deaths.

AMREF supports reproductive health and rights for women through ensuring access to effective contraceptives, skilled obstetric services, assisted delivery, ante-natal and post-natal care of newborns.

Reproductive health also includes the prevention and diagnosis of cervical among disadvantaged women. According to AMREF Africa accounts for 20 percent of the world’s birth but contributes to 40 percent of maternal deaths globally, many of which would also be preventable if proper and accessible health care was in place.

According to WHO the biggest risk to the lives of teenage girls and women in the developing world is pregnancy and childbirth. Too many young girls become pregnant with devastating and long-term effects on their reproductive health.

AMREF supports reproductive health and rights for women and through ensuring access to effective contraceptives, skilled obstetric services, assisted delivery, ante-natal and post-natal care of newborns. Reproductive health also includes the prevention and diagnosis of cervical cancer among disadvantaged women.

As for strategic direction number two of reducing morbidity and mortality among children, AMREF supports a holistic approach to disease management where the overall health of the child is considered, addressing all causes of childhood illness. This approach focuses on treatment, prevention, care and home management of the sick child.

As an integral component of good health, innovative intervention to improve nutrition and promote breast feeding are also included in AMREF’s approach to reducing morbidity and mortality among children. In strategic direction creased access to skilled delivery, neonatal and post-natal care will be substantially reduce newborn deaths and promote proper immunisation of infants.

Strategic direction number three is the scaling up HIV,TB and malaria responses. This would means building capacity and scaling up resources in response to the most prevalent diseases on the continent- tuberculosis, malaria and HIV, including preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV. This will continue to be key focus of AMREF’s work in disease prevention and treatment. Strengthening laboratory services to provide better diagnosis for malaria and tuberculosis and greater access to HIV screening will go a long way in prevention and treatment of infectious diseases.

Preventing and controlling diseases related to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is AMREF’s strategic direction number four. AMREF seeks to increase access to sustainable, safe and adequate water, appropriate sanitation and hygiene practices. AMREF’s goal is to reduce prevalence of WASH-related diseases such as dysentery cholera, trachoma and typhoid and to protect women and children from WASH-related disease epidemics in AMREF’s areas of operation.

Increasing access by disadvantaged communities to quality medical, surgical and diagnostic services is AMREF’s strategic direction number five. In this direction, AMREF seeks to strengthen the capacity of appropriately trained health workers, improve access to quality primary, secondary and tertiary health care and to strengthen laboratory services.

AMREF provides access to specialized health care including cleft and palate, obstetric fistula repair and general and urology surgery to disadvantaged communities across Africa.

AMREF’s strategic direction number six is developing strong research and innovation bases to contribute to health improvement in Africa. Over the next three years, AMREF’s research will focus on influencing positive behavioural change to obtain better health outcomes, understanding health inequalities, addressing issues around diseases prevention and uncovering strategies to build capacity in all areas of health service delivery.

It will, among other things, test innovative methods to deliver health and training across Africa. Through adoption of such methods as –e-learning and mobile learning, AMREF will train significant number of health workers. It would also support its advocacy activities and to positively influence national and global health policy.

Creating a strong, unified, global AMREF is strategic direction number seven. AMREF will better coordinate its work to create lasting health change in Africa.

It would, as usual maintain careful financial and resource planning to implement key priorities, use donor funds efficiently and preserve the overall financial stability of the organisation. It will also increase the organization’s visibility, support its advocacy and fundraising efforts and help position AMREF as an expert in women’s and children’s health.

AMREF’s strategic plan is sacred. Very few people in Africa have access to quality medical care. Africa is home to about 11 percent of the world’s population, but has a mere three percent of the world’s health workers tackling 24 percent of the global disease burden.

Despite an increase in health spending in Africa, access to good quality care is limited as most funding has been targeted towards the treatment the treatment of specific disease, rather that improving overall health systems and services.

The Director General of AMREF, Dr Teguest Guerma is confident that AMREF would achieve its goals.

She says in part in AMREF’s 2011-2014 Business Plan, “With renewed focus on specific health priorities and the harmonised structures to implement them successfully, I believe AMREF is well positioned to achieve its vision of lasting health change from within Africa’s communities.

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