Monday 1 January 2024

The Future of Health Conference: The Private Sector as a Catalyst for a Resilient Health System

By Ruth Ajawu

Shades of Us attended the 9th edition of the Future of Health Conference on October 12, 2023.

The Future of Health Conference is a yearly gathering hosted by Nigeria Health Watch, and this year's theme was a game-changer. Nigeria Health Watch has come a long way since its first health conference in 2015, where the discussion centred on Universal Health Coverage. Over the years, they have delved into diverse topics, from ‘Health Meets Tech’ in 2016, to ‘The Business of Health’ in 2017, the ‘Diaspora as Nigeria's Brain Gain’ in 2018, ‘Quality in Healthcare’ in 2019, ‘Innovations in Health’ in 2020, ‘The Political Economy of Health’ in 2022 in anticipation of the 2023 elections. This year, the spotlight was on ‘The Private Sector as a Catalyst for a Resilient Health System’.

Dr. Salma Ibrahim Anas, the Special Adviser on Health to the President, set the tone with her inspiring words: “The health of Nigerians is a fundamental human right and a matter of national security that requires a resilient health system to ensure the provision and maintenance.” She made it clear that the private sector plays an indispensable role in transforming Nigeria's health sector. With over 70% of healthcare expenditure coming from the private sector, this partnership is vital!

“Achieving a resilient health system requires a multisectoral and multifaceted approach where public and private sectors collaborate to accelerate progress. With this, Nigeria can have the right policy to promote access to quality healthcare.” – Dr. Salma Ibrahim Anas continued.

But that was just the beginning! Prof. Muhammad Ali Pate, the Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare of Nigeria, reminded us that health is not just about preserving human capital; it is also a driver of growth and prosperity.

“Private sector capacities are essential to our health system. Not only can it contribute financial resources beyond what states can do, but their ideas, innovations and partnerships can be leveraged to transform Nigeria's health sector. Health is a core aspect of preserving and accumulating the human capital necessary for growth and prosperity into the future. Health investments are important as a driver of growth and prosperity but can also be a consequence of that growth and prosperity. Private sector actors know that when outbreaks occur, they also get shafted by them. When Ebola hit West Africa in 2014, private sector actors suffered, as we also saw during COVID19 which affected firms and economies. The private sector is essential to our health system because it can provide more financial resources than the government can on its own.” the Coordinating Minister enthused.

Dr. Amit Thakker, Executive Chairman of African Health Business, shed light on the progress made in women's health, making quality healthcare more accessible and affordable. “The public-private partnership in Nigeria has laid a strong foundation for women's health. Over the past decade, we've witnessed significant progress in affordability, accessibility, and quality.”

Dr. Olusegun Ogboye, Permanent Secretary at Lagos State Ministry Of Health (LSMOH) speaking on behalf of Professor Akin Abayomi, the Commissioner for LSMOH, emphasised that the private sector can help bridge the healthcare infrastructure gap. With the right policies, it can be a win-win for everyone.

“There is a need for private sector participation in the health system because the government cannot fund the healthcare infrastructure gap alone. The Lagos State Government’s approach to improving the future of health includes leveraging the private sector funding and capacity and improving skills and training. We have smaller partnerships that enable public-private partnerships in our hospitals. We must facilitate inclusion rather than mere incentivization of the private sector through the right policies. The most effective tool the government has is policy. The right policies will increase the ease of doing business for the private sector and in return share in revenue generated in order to fund government activities and ensure sustainability.”

Panel one appraised Nigeria's journey towards attaining Universal Health Coverage (UHC) by 2030, identified funding gaps for UHC, and explored how the private sector can play a vital role in bridging these gaps. Nigeria cannot achieve UHC without stronger partnerships and collaboration with the private sector. This discussion was moderated by Kemisola Agbaoye, Director of Programmes, Nigeria Health Watch and the panelists included Dr Tinuola Akinbolagbe, Managing Director/CEO of Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria (PSHAN); Jadesola Idowu, Chief operating officer, AXA Mansard, Health Ltd.; Dr. Tolulope Adewole, Programs Lead at Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA)/CEO of Medserve; Dr. Jide Idris, Former Commissioner for Health, Lagos State.

Ultimately, there is no ‘Health For All’ without health financing. Partnerships with the private sector will strengthen our health system and quicken our journey to achieving UHC and SDG3 in Nigeria. Let us make it happen.

Like some West African countries, Nigeria has had a surge in Lassa fever cases in recent years. But proactive measures are in place to address it. Leading experts discussed cutting-edge vaccine development progress at the event during a Fireside Chat hosted by Kate Kelland, Chief Scientific Writer at Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). “Epidemiological research and clinical trials are vital components of healthcare, driving disease prevention, treatment and medical advancements. Collaborative efforts by both private and public sectors are vital to push forward Lassa vaccines to end the disease outbreaks. There is a big market for effective Lassa fever vaccines. Millions of people will benefit from the vaccine as it will help to control the spread of the disease in countries where it is endemic.”

“Lassa Fever is a deadly disease in most West African countries, significantly affecting many people. As the disease occurs annually, significant progress has been made in manufacturing Lassa fever vaccines. Partnership integration cannot be dictated. There is a need to involve stakeholders, especially potential private partners at the planning stage, to ensure that there is no segregation and conflicts of interests or trust. As we deal with the issue of false news and misguided information about vaccines. It is important that the private sector is involved in all the processes of vaccine production, starting from manufacturing.” – Professor Alash'le Abimiku shared at the fire side chat.

Donald Grant, Chief Physician Kenema Hospital, Sierra Leone, shared similar thoughts. “The private sector has a critical role to play in the promotion of vaccine creation and promotion to minimise preventable deaths caused by neglected diseases. Lassa fever, a neglected disease that has caused many deaths in endemic countries, is now spreading to more countries. This calls for urgent action to prevent further spread and save lives. We are excited to have governments in West African countries and CEPI come together to have one of the most extensive epidemiological studies to understand the epidemiology of Lassa disease. The Private sector has a critical role in developing the Lassa fever vaccine. For most of the past years, it has been more of the public sector; it is time for the private sector to come on board because governments cannot do it alone.”

Nigeria's medical brain drain can become a brain gain but needs strategic steps. Panelists on the second two discussed how Private Sector Partnerships and Collaboration can Sustain a Diaspora "Brain Gain" in Nigeria. This discussion was moderated by Dr. Amaka Momoh, Senior Specialist, Girls and Women Empowerment, World Bank, and the Panelists were: Njide Ndili, Country Director, PharmAccess; Dr Oge Ilegbune, General Practitioner, Head of Strategy, Development and Outreach at Lakeshore Cancer Center; Ejim Egba Clement, President Of Nimsa; and Dr. Benjamin Anyanwu, MD/CEO, Regions Stroke and NeuroScience Hospital. 

Nigeria can turn medical brain drain into brain gain, but it needs to take strategic steps.

The third and final panel at the conference explored how the private sector can be leveraged for quality maternal healthcare. This discussion was moderated by Ekenem Isichei, Chief Executive officer, ACIOE associates, and the Panelists were: Amit Thakker, Executive Chairman, Africa Health Business; Iyadunni Olubode, Nigeria Director, MSD for Mothers; Nneka Mobisson, CEO, mDOC; Dr. Chito Nwana, Chief Medical Director, Tabitha Medical Centre; and Dr. Tokunbo Shitta-Bey, CEO, Duchess Hospital.

This discussion was crucial, especially as Nigeria seeks solutions to combat the alarming maternal mortality rates. Nigeria's maternal mortality rate is a public health concern. Addressing this requires a multifaceted approach, including stronger partnerships & collaboration with the private sector to expand access to quality maternal healthcare for women. 

At the end of the event, the Director of Programmes at Nigeria Health Watch revealed the theme for the 2024 conference: ‘The Climate-Health Nexus: Making the Evidence Visible.’ Before then, download the report of the 2023 Future of Health Conference here

Shades of Us advocates for stronger partnerships and collaborations between the private and public sectors, and encourages everyone to keep pushing for a resilient health system that can meet the needs of all Nigerians.

We look forward to an even bigger conference in 2024. 

No comments:

Post a Comment