Better access to quality healthcare
Cape Town – Access to quality healthcare systems across Africa needs to improve to reduce the high prevalence of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) on the continent.
This is according to Dr Sarah Barber, the World Health Organisation representative to South Africa and speaker at the 6th annual Health Exhibition & Congress 2016, who said factors such as rapid urbanisation are contributing to the prevalence of NCDs in Africa.
She added that urbanisation typically results in an increase of sedentary lifestyles, unhealthy diets, the use of tobacco and the harmful use of alcohol – all of which can lead to preventable NCDs such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes – especially among youth populations.
NCDs account for 68% of total deaths globally and 52% of deaths under the age of 70, which indicates an “urgent need” for access to quality healthcare, especially in Africa.
“The data indicates that our health systems [in Africa] are not yet prepared and must be strengthened to manage NCD conditions,” Dr Barber said.
“We have to focus on behavioural change. Youth and adolescence are critical periods of development which implies that investing in health during adolescence has benefits throughout the rest of the life cycle.”
At the event, deputy Permanent Secretary in Botswana’s Ministry of Health, Dr Haruna Jibril, said that Botswana is focusing on providing access to health facilities for all its citizens. He highlighted the country’s progress in addressing HIV, Tuberculosis (TB), malaria and malnutrition through accessible programmes.
Mother-to-child HIV transmission, for example, is addressed through Anti-Retroviral Treatment which is provided to mothers with HIV, regardless of their CD4 count, throughout their lives. Dr Jibril said this has contributed to a mother-to-child HIV transmission rate of only 2%, in line with global standards.
Meanwhile, the role of Public Private Partnerships is crucial in realising quality Universal Health Care in Africa, according to Clare Omatseye, President of the Healthcare Federation of Nigeria, who added that 90% of people in Africa currently pay for healthcare out of their own pockets, which leads to a vicious cycle of indebtedness and further poor health.
“Healthcare is a fundamental human right and we have to be able to find a way to get universal healthcare available to the average person in each of our countries by 2030,” she said.
Omatseye said public and private healthcare sectors should not be viewed as mutually exclusive and can work together, not only to provide quality healthcare to the population, but also to operate profitably.
To achieve this, African governments would need to incentivise the private healthcare sector to participate in providing services to the greater population. Omatseye said these incentives could include breaks on equipment duties, guaranteeing payments for the provision of services to those without private health insurance and termination compensation for all cases, including the coverage of equity and all finance charges.
These incentives would not only improve access to quality healthcare but would result in further investment in the sector and assist in greater economic development, which would result in more government revenue to spend on the public health system.