By Dr. Frankline SEVIDZEM WIRSIY
Associate Director | Global Public Health and Development | Africa
Reflecting on this topic, we ponder on a question “Who pays the first ‘1000 USD’ for field teams to be deployed to investigate and respond timely to a deadly infectious disease outbreak in a hard-to-reach community in an African country? In April 2001, heads of state of African Union countries met and pledged to set a target of allocating at least 15% of their annual budget to improve the health sector. In addition, the African Leadership Meeting (ALM)- 2019 Addis Ababa declaration by Heads of States stipulated the improvement of the health financing status quo in Africa, by investing for increased domestic funds for health more effectively and efficiently. The benefits of increased domestic health financing among African nations cannot be overstated as they can lead to several significant benefits. The African Union through Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched a framework for action, “A New Public Health Order [NPHO] for Africa” in 2021 with five strategic pillars. One of these pillars is increased domestic resources for health security, and the other four include i. Strengthened public health institutions, ii. Strengthened public health workforce, iii. Expanded manufacturing of vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics, iv. Respectful and action-oriented partnerships. Looking at it critically, we see that the aspirations highly rotate on increased resources for health, prioritizing health care such that when a country in each of the 55 AU member states is safeguarding the health of its citizen, it should be considered as an investment and not a mere cost for the state. This NPHO framework for action seeks to strengthen the self-sufficiency of African public health systems and to address any current national, regional, or global imbalances. Investing in African health systems is essential to achieve Africa’s development ambitions as outlined in the Agenda 2063 (The Africa We Want), and an equally strategic investment for global health security.
By investing more in their domestic financing for health systems functioning, African countries can unlock the following 10 advantages:
1. Disease Prevention and Control: Adequate funding allows for the implementation of public health initiatives focused on disease prevention, control, and health promotion. These efforts can tackle communicable diseases such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis, as well as non-communicable diseases like diabetes and hypertension. In addition to the situation of increased AMR and emerging infectious diseases partly caused by climate change, increased domestic health financing is critical in curbing their widespread.
2. Improved Healthcare Access: Increased health financing can expand the availability and accessibility of healthcare services, making them more affordable for the population. This ensures that more people can access essential medical services when needed, reducing the burden of preventable diseases and promoting overall well-being.
3. Reduced Mortality and Morbidity Rates: With better access to healthcare facilities, treatments, and medications, preventable diseases can be addressed promptly, leading to lower mortality and morbidity rates. This, in turn, enhances the overall life expectancy and quality of life for the population.
4. Strengthened Health Systems: More financing enables the development and enhancement of health infrastructure, including hospitals, clinics, and medical facilities. It allows for the procurement of medical equipment, essential medicines, and vaccines, strengthening the overall health system’s capacity to respond to health crises.
5. Economic Growth and Development: A healthier population is a more productive population. By investing in health, African countries can create a more robust and efficient labor force, leading to increased economic productivity and potential for sustained economic growth.
6. Reduced Healthcare Costs: When individuals can access basic healthcare services earlier, it can prevent the progression of illnesses to more severe stages, thereby reducing the need for costly medical interventions. Investing in preventive care can save money in the long run for both individuals and the healthcare system.
7. Increased Healthcare Workforce and Skills Development: More funding can be directed towards training and retaining healthcare professionals, leading to a more skilled and motivated workforce. This can help address the issue of healthcare worker shortages and improve the overall quality of healthcare services.
8. Health Security and Pandemic Preparedness: Strengthening health systems through increased domestic health financing can help countries better prepare for and respond to health emergencies, such as disease outbreaks and epidemics. This is especially crucial given the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic.
9. Greater Self-Reliance and Reduced Dependence on External Aid: By increasing domestic health financing, African countries can reduce their reliance on external aid and take greater control of their healthcare systems, ensuring sustainability and better long-term planning.
10. Improved Social Equity and Inclusivity: Adequate health financing can help reduce health disparities, ensuring that healthcare services are accessible to all citizens, regardless of their socioeconomic status or geographical location.
In conclusion, increasing domestic health financing in African nations is essential to improve the overall health and well-being of their populations, boost economic development, and build resilient health systems that can effectively respond to challenges and crises.