A new report on the future of health in sub-Saharan Africa praises advances in certain areas, including maternal and child health and control of infectious diseases, but makes clear that many obstacles – e.g., wars, environmental degradation, lack of resources and others – remain as challenges to the health of these African peoples.
[Photo: Dr. Irene Agyepong]
The comprehensive study, published online Sept. 13 in The Lancet, was led by alumna Dr. Irene Akua Agyepong, who received her doctorate in health policy and management at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health in 2000.
Now with the Ghana Health Service, in Acra, Ghana, Dr. Agyepong conducted the research with co-authors from the London School of Tropical Medicine and the University of Washington, FHI 360, in Durham, NC, and from numerous African countries, including Uganda, Rwanda, Senegal, The Gambia, Kenya, Ethiopia and others.
The research was a response to The Lancet Commission – for “The Path to Longer and Healthier Lives for all Africans by 2030.” Established in 2013, the commission has inspired African physicians, scientists and policy makers to chart a roadmap for improved health for sub-Saharan Africans.
The commission highlights 12 strategic options to be considered in African countries’ policies and plans. The options are connected to the health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) proposed by the United Nations.
The strategies include:
The authors call for urgent action, noting that “the opportunities ahead cannot be unlocked with more of the same approaches and by keeping the current pace.” Rather, they “advocate for an approach based upon people-centered health systems … adaptable to each country’s specific needs.”
“Leadership on Africa’s health, scientific and development challenges should come from Africans, in close collaboration with the global community,” they write. “A fragmented health agenda … will not succeed in strengthening health service delivery and public health systems – and will not address the determinants of health.”
Africa’s young people will be key, the writers say, “to bringing about the transformative changes required to rapidly accelerate the efforts needed to improve health and health equity across sub-Saharan Africa.”