Health systems innovation is the path to better health

12Oct 2019
The Guardian
Health systems innovation is the path to better health

This year the Africa Health Agenda International Conference (AHAIC) was hosted by African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF) and World Health Organisation (WHO) in Nairobi, Kenya.

The conference brought together around 1000 health experts and leaders in government, private sectors and civil societies across Africa and beyond, to line Africa health agenda with global health agenda, exchange scientific knowledge and research findings and stimulate debates for strategies, ideas and innovations.


The three days of presentations and discussions offered a variety of perspectives on significance and uniqueness of Africa's health agenda, and traced a roadmap to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Africa health agenda is made unique by its predominant role of preventable diseases in morbidity and mortality of Africa's people and the gap that exists between communities and the health systems. With 11 percent of the world's population, Africa accounts for 24 per cent of the global disease burden, has an emerging and high burden of infectious diseases, poor women's and children's health and an increasing burden of non-communicable diseases.

Although community -based healthcare has the potential to contribute to better health outcomes, the gap between the community health and formal health systems remains wide and still 50 per cent of Africans do not have access to quality healthcare.

Different panelists from governments, academia and various institutions addressed those problems and shed light on different issues. Some of the things addressed included, the existing bottlenecks that are hindering the attainment of universal health coverage in sub-Saharan Africa and achievements to date; threats to global health security in Africa where Africa's preparedness for emerging and re-emergent health events and threats; public-private partnerships to address inadequacy of policies and broad frameworks on how public and private sectors can bettercollaborate to address the problems of health financing, access and quality. Discussions also centred on the implementation of the health SDGs in Africa, the role of innovations and technology in improving health services in Africa, burden of anti-microbial resistance on Africa, and above all, how to move towards universal health coverage.

The outcomes of the conference are expected to revolutionise community health work in Africa, highlighting partner commitments to implementation of national community health strategies to tackle health threats and health systems weaknesses.

This campaign emphasises the important role community health workers play in addressing health systems gaps like shortage of health professionals, poor uptake of health promotion and disease prevention interventions, poor data quality and inadequate use of data and evidence for decision-making at household, community and sub-national levels.