Africa’s Health Care System: We have a long way to go!
But I am very hopeful for what the future holds for us
I thought that I would be able to complete my book for February before the end of the month. But I couldn’t. I am reading Professor Jean-Germain Gros’ book titled ‘’ Healthcare policy in Africa. He is a professor of political science and public policy at the University of Missouri, St Lois. As I said, I am not done with the book but there are some compelling arguments about health care in Africa that I would love to point out from the book
First, health policies can make a difference when they are right. While I am not a policy analyst, I believe that many laws and regulations that guide the healthcare system in Nigeria where I come from that must be revisited to reflect our current realities.
For instance, in 1978, Nigeria was part of the signatories to the Alma Ata declaration on Primary Health Care (PHC) as a strategy to attain Health for All and stymie the existing gross inequality in the health status across the globe initiated by the World Health Organization.
Still, the state of primary healthcare services is deplorable and this is even from my personal experience. Health Watch (2023) succinctly posited that “decades of neglect by state and local governments, whose responsibility it is to provide primary healthcare services in the country, have resulted in inefficient and poor-quality primary healthcare service delivery across the country”. This means that existing policies - structural, financial, etc- must be urgently revisited to position them to provide the essential health care it was initially created for.
Secondly, the book sparked again a question that I have nursed for a while and have written about in a previous article. Why the complete neglect of traditional medicine? Can’t this system which is actually thriving undercover be regulated?
For instance, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw the spark in the price of lime and lemon as it was used as a preventive measure for different households including mine.
At least I know a few ‘native doctors’ who prescribe natural products such as black charcoal, garlic, ginger, etc for diverse diseases. While I am not underestimating the potency of modern medicine, I am a firm believer in the potential of orthodox medicine too, if the government can pay due attention to it. I wonder if I am taking it too far by asking that it be an optional course in medical school too (if it doesn’t exist).
The author also noted that ‘African countries have been prone to embrace health care policy initiatives of external origins’ and that ‘we copy and amplify as if it were our own’. Again, I am not saying that we should not be inspired by the great works of developed countries in terms of their health care; at least I currently reside in a developed country and I am wowed by their state-of-the-art healthcare infrastructure.
Hence, if we must replicate, we should take into consideration the particularities of our society. No two societies, communities, or countries are the same, so policies must be well-researched, and roundly tested before full implementation to avoid redundancy, wastage, and a boomerang effect.
While growing up, I watched as government programs in communities were abandoned by the citizens it was created for simply because the citizens did not perceive such interventions as priorities. Citizens, beneficiaries, or recipients of any initiatives must be consulted or regarded as partners to identify what they need and how they want the needs to be met.
Additionally, effective intervention in healthcare is dependent on ‘meticulous record keeping of information and data’. I believe that good record-keeping would help us evaluate our interventions and provide insights for future programs. We have a lot to learn in this regard from developed countries if you ask me.
As I conclude, having said all these, what exact policies would work for us in our current dispensation? I believe health researchers and think tanks situated across the globe are doing great work creating solutions already and I hope that my research in health communication would join them to identify and implement well- throughout solutions to salvage Africa’s healthcare system.