Amref Health Africa and UNICEF renew commitment to strengthening PHC
Amref Health Africa and UNICEF held a parallel session on strengthening community platforms for Primary Health Care (PHC), during the 2nd International Conference on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health in Africa, convened by the African Union Commission.
The meeting was co-chaired by Dr. Githahi Gitahi, Amref Health Africa Group CEO, Dr. Sam Oboche, UNICEF's Senior Health Specialist, Dr. Mariame Sylla, Chief Health and Nutrition, Gabriele Fontana, Regional Advisor for Health, Eastern and Southern Region and Susie Villeneuve , Regional Advisor for Health Systems Strengthening, West and Central Africa.
The speakers acknowledge the importance of strengthening community platforms, including recognition and remuneration of Community Health Workers (CHWs), underscoring its relevance in the realization of Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
The session was a build-up on the global momentum for the revitalization of PHC to elevate the critical role of robust community platforms in enhanced delivery of integrated reproductive, maternal, neonatal and child health interventions.
Dr Gitahi who is also the co-chair of UHC 2030 challenged the forum to lobby the regional government through the African Union to promote primary health care. "We can only achieve tangible improvement in the health sector if African heads of state, like we have seen in Ethiopia, take it up to support community health programs," he said.
Forty years on, PHC remains relevant as foundational to health service delivery. Its underlying principles include equitable distribution, community involvement, focus on prevention, appropriate technology and a multi-sectoral approach.
Despite this, PHC, its implementation in the transformation of health systems has been slow. "This is partly because policymakers have not recognized this fact. In many of their documents, they have degraded this fact that 'some evidence' exists, "noted Dr. Gitahi.
Other factors to blame include inadequate political will, political instability, multiple disease-oriented programs, focus on specialized care, broadly under-funded healthcare systems and emerging, persisting epidemics have impeded progress in achieving comprehensive PHC.
Even so, there is a general consensus that when community-based platforms are strengthened, supported and institutionalized, they would increase the coverage of essential health care interventions through the delivery of an integrated package of services.
Lessons from the response to the Ebola crisis show the critical role of community level frontline workers in pathogenic disease outbreaks through early case identification, tracing and monitoring.
The forum comes a week after world leaders endorsed in Astana, Kazakhstan that emphasizes the critical role of PHC, refocusing efforts to ensure that everyone can enjoy the highest possible achievable standard of health.
In an effort to bridge health gaps in Africa, Amref Health Africa has stepped up for the integration of CHWs into formal health workforce and compensation for the work they do.