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Public Health Initiatives in Africa


In Africa, public health initiatives & primary care have been overlooked in the past but are now being re-discovered. According to the World Health Organization, there are 738 million people in the African Region and it is well acknowledged that the African continent is confronted by dramatic health problems such as AIDS and Malaria. There are many public health initiatives that address health challenges that it faces, given the most support from other developed countries such as the United States and Canada. Many key health issues in the region are tracked by periodic progress reports which are available in the public domain.

HIV/AIDS is the pandemic epicentre in Africa and it continues to rank first in contributing to the statistics, although it still remains the lead cause of death. Malaria is an endemic disease that spreads across the African region. Most countries in Africa are also making good progress with childhood illnesses with polio close to eradication.  The immense burden of disease, frail health systems that are under a wider context of poverty, under-developed and weak or ill-managed government institutions are roadblocks in the way of a healthier Africa.

There are various opportunities that can deliver a comprehensive care however they need to be coordinated in a proper order so as to be able to strengthen healthcare networks and outreach. There is a need for a well-sustained basic building of the health systems.

Public health system and surveillance and information is brought about to strengthen research in Africa and must be able to report critical/ accurate disease burden and provision of evidence for prioritization of procedures and distribution of resources.

Human and Physical Health Infrastructure: Africa contributes to about 24% of the world’s disease burden and has only 3% of healthcare professionals. There is a huge shortage of physicians, nurses, health managers and administrators. Hence, healthcare professionals are being drawn from lower income countries to higher income countries in Africa, from public to private sector and from the rural to the urban areas.

Financing health: It is a daunting challenge to be able to make healthcare services affordable. Healthcare centres and public hospitals do charge a user fee that is growing expensive in the private sector and is largely expensive for most Africans. This issue is more likely to expand with alimony, revenues from the government as assistance/ support from the foreign system are most likely to decrease. However, countries such as Ghana and Tanzania have made progress in national health insurance systems that ensure protection when in most need.

Leadership and Health Policy: The public health system of Africa ultimately resides in the national account of leadership and sound national health governance. In a recent African Union Meeting in Nigeria, the heads of state of Africa issued an Abuja Declaration that pledged to raise public health spending to 15% of national budgets respectively. The governments now draw more number of non-governmental institutions for assisting formulations and implementing policies effectively.

To conclude, public health research must be re-oriented. The public health research field has a struggle & mission of its own and process through which community health research undertakes greater importance than in its past.

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