Adopt people-centred health systems for better outcomes

student midwife from The School of Midwifery in Masuba
Copyright: Panos

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  • Africa has not made greater gains in addressing health challenges
  • New report calls for country-specific, people-centred health systems
  • Expert urges governments to fund health R&D instead of relying mainly on donors

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[NAIROBI] Africa could make great health gains with the adoption of people-centred health systems that reflect each country’s specific needs, says a  report.
The report published in The Lancet this month (14 September) and launched in Kenya, calls for new strategies and measures to overhaul current approaches of population healthcare delivery in Africa that are steeped in equity and sustainability challenges.
According to the report, Africa lags other continents, and has major inequities, with health outcomes particularly worst in the poor, rural areas, among the poor, marginalised populations, disabled, urban slums and fragile countries.

“The continent should adopt a rapid expansion of new, African-bred approaches to people-centred health systems, focused on prevention, primary care and public health.”

Nelson Sewankambo, Makerere University, Uganda.


 “Countries can and should invest more in health and do more to address inefficiencies by identification of new funding sources and movement towards prioritisation of health in domestic budgets,” says the report, which resulted from a four-year project undertaken by a Lancet Commission on challenges and opportunities for health in Africa.
The report highlights 12 strategic options such as leadership, financing for health and health workforce development for all countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to help achieve healthier lives for all by 2030.
Nelson Sewankambo, co-author of the report, tells SciDev.Net frameworks that rely on hospitals and individual care are unlikely to lead to achievement of improved health for all Africans.
“The continent should adopt a rapid expansion of new, African-bred approaches to people-centred health systems, focused on prevention, primary care and public health, and supported by clinical referral systems and quality tertiary care, which is required to move to the next stage of better health,” explains Sewankambo, a professor of medicine at Makerere University, Uganda.
He adds that the continent should integrate more advanced innovation and customised, low-cost technologies into the health service delivery systems and health professional education. This will transform the health sector and achieve universal healthcare, citing, mobile technology implemented in Ghana to identify counterfeit medicines as locally-bred innovation.
Alex Ezeh, executive director, Kenya-based African Population and Health Research Center, urges African governments to make use of higher education and research for better health and sustainable development.
“Higher education plays a vital significance for development of an adequate and skilled health workforce and increasing health research capacity, and should receive a higher priority in national and regional agendas of the continent,” says Ezeh, a co-author of the report.
He notes that local research that will identify challenges, set priorities and devise original solutions for local problems is required to improve delivery of health services in Africa, and change the mindset that anything made in Africa is bad.

Nelson Torto, executive director of African Academy of Sciences, a pan-African organisation headquartered in Kenya, challenges African governments to fund its own health research and not to depend mainly on donors from outside the continent.
“Different countries face different problems,” Torto tells SciDev.Net. “This calls for effective collaborations within the continent to share information, knowledge and solutions for solving health challenges.”

This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.