Healthy, wealthy and Strong nation

There is need for a smarter socio-political reform that will place healthcare as the pre-eminent public policy issue

At the end of the THISDAY Policy Dialogue Three last Friday in Abuja with the theme, “Improving Nigerians Health Outcomes In Numbers”, there was a consensus that government, at all levels, should see health as the right of the people. But in order to attain this, the focus should be on what the country should put on the table to revamp the sector rather than depend solely on help from development partners. It was also resolved that the ability to manage resources efficiently must be developed just as there is an urgent need to mobilise all critical stakeholders, including the private sector, in a bid to make healthcare efficient and affordable to the people.

Like the two previous dialogue sessions, some of the recommendations include improving transparency and accountability around public financial managements; making the legal framework for financing the health sector robust enough to support the delivery of a set of high impact interventions for all Nigerians; increasing public investment and ensuring that assistance from donor agencies and development partners align with government policy for the sector. It was also recommended that state governments and the private sector should increase spending on health as most of public sector funding currently comes from the federal government

However, from what transpired at the event, it was obvious that several challenges plague the sector that would require the collaboration of all the stakeholders. Nigeria, according to most participants, has one of the highest infant mortality in the world; bogged down by incompetent workforce and funding challenge. While announcing a robust financial support to Nigeria’s healthcare fund, the Practice Manager, World Bank Group, Washington, Mrs Trvna Hague underscored the need for affordable healthcare delivery that will target the poor. “If there are vaccines, drugs and other services, the number of Nigerians accessing services in primary health centres will increase. And this can happen if healthcare funding is brought down to rural and low levels in the country”, she said.

The quarterly dialogue session, which brings under one roof healthcare stakeholders, development partners and policymakers from the public and private sectors as well as domestic and international public health institutions, is part of a corporate social responsibility to discuss the challenges of the health sector in Nigeria and the prospects for sustainable solutions. Both Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and Health Minister, Prof Isaac Adewole, who were at the event on Friday, commended THISDAY/ARISE Media Group for deploying their platforms to address pertinent issues in the health sector.

The reasons for policy failure in the health sector, according to participants, are many and some of them include lack of political will, inadequate investments in healthcare (from both the public and private sector), human resource challenges, especially professional rivalries and emigration of medical personnel in addition to unsustainable financing for the sector. Other challenges include the inability of the various local governments to take up their primary healthcare responsibilities as well as the declining reputation of medical practice in Nigeria which discourages patronages from both the rich and the middle class and in turn encourages outbound medical tourism.

While credible metrics and effective health planning, monitoring and evaluation, by federal and state ministries of health are required to encourage confidence, it was also agreed that there should be a reduction in out-of-pocket payments at point of service delivery, through better and improved public investments. But to achieve those objectives, there is need for a major socio-political reform that will place healthcare as the pre-eminent public policy issue as it is in most countries in the world.

At the end, it was agreed by a broad section of participants that although investment in health leads to economic growth, Nigeria invests far too little in the critical sector, spending less than nearly every country in the world. Yet, in climes where political leaderships have rallied stakeholders behind investments in the health sector, significant improvements have been possible.

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The quarterly dialogue session, which brings under one roof healthcare stakeholders, development partners and policymakers from the public and private sectors as well as domestic and international public health institutions, is part of a corporate social responsibility to discuss the challenges of the health sector in Nigeria and the prospects for sustainable solutions