Professor Evarist Njelesani, president of the East, Central and Southern Africa College of Physicians (ESCACoP), opened Innovation in Medicine 2018’s day 2 morning session with an overview of the clinical challenges facing Africa.
Highlighting a number of the biggest issues facing Africa, including health infrastructure, human resources for health, health care financing, supplies (including medicines), health services and governance, he begun by placing the scale of the health challenges facing Africa in context.
You can’t have economic growth without a health sector
‘Clinical challenges that Africa faces have been well documented. Africa has 10% of the world’s population, bears 25% of the global disease burden but has only 3% of the global health workforce’, Professor Njelesani stated. ‘Africa also faces the epidemic of continuing and emerging infectious diseases, increase in non-communicable diseases, increase in road traffic accidents, and an increase in human displacement due to conflicts and wars.
‘Added to this there is a critical shortage of physicians, nurses, and allied health staff across the continent.’
He went on to discuss the ongoing challenge of health care financing on the continent, saying that expenditure on health by the governments continues to be low, with most programmes being donor funded and showing how states under financial constraints cut expenditure on health.
‘Often governments making cuts take money from health because they don’t see it as a sector. It is a mistake to think that health isn’t an economic sector,’ he explained. ‘You can’t have economic growth without a health sector’.
Partnerships are vital to supporting and developing next cadre of African physicians
The solutions he said were to create sound national health policy frameworks, including policy, strategy, budget, and operational plans, that are country-led in all processes.
‘Partnerships are vital to supporting and developing next cadre of African physicians,’ he concluded.
As a mark of appreciation for all the work he has done on behalf of ESCACoP, RCP president Professor Dame Jane Dacre presented Professor Njelesan with a copy of 500 years of the Royal College of Physicians.