Success Stories in Community Health in Africa

The African Public Health Network of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health held a panel discussion about community health successes in Africa on Monday 10th of April as the first in a series of events for the annual “Faces of Africa Week”.

Africa evokes different reactions to different people. For many, it’s the pictures of starving children, wars, poverty and disease that they find in various print and electronic media. But there has been a lot of achievement in Africa!

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health – an institution that has invested a lot of time and resources in saving millions of lives at a time- has a huge footprint on the continent and other parts of the developing world through the work done and being done by experienced faculty members. Here is a summary of there thoughts as presented at Monday’s panel.

Dr. Henry Perry led the panel discussion on ‘The success stories in Public Health in Africa in the context of the role of Community Based Health Care’. He provided insights from the experiences of Rwanda and Ethiopia. He stressed the achievements of both countries in establishing and scaling up community health worker programs and in achieving Millennium Development Goals with reduced child mortality.

Dr. William Brieger shared his experience from having lived and worked in Nigeria for over 27 years. He shared the progress in working with volunteer health workers and helping to shape community directed interventions. This history ranged from volunteer CHW programs by local NGOs, FBOs and universities in the 1970s to the development of a standardized set of CHW guidance and training materials by the Federal Ministry of Health in 2012. In the 1990s Nigeria took part in WHO’s African Program for Onchocerciasis Control and established a system of community directed treatment with ivermectin (CDTI) and community directed distributors to enable communities to take charge of annual ivermectin delivery. Then in the 2000s efforts build on the CDTI model to create the community directed intervention approach that included delivery of malaria services (ITNs, Case management and intermittent preventive treatment), vitamin A and DOTS for TB through community effort.

Dr. Anbrasi Edward shared the Mozambique experience highlighting the Vurhonga projects and the impact of the care group model in improving maternal and child health. She described how the Care Group model was developed by an NGO that involved community volunteers providing education and services to small groups of community members. This model has spread throughout Africa.

Mr. Bonny Musefano from the Embassy of The Republic of Rwanda provide perspectives on how Rwanda rebuilt its health system after the 1994 genocide ultimately leading to good community health. He stress the importance of Rwanda’s innovative system of community health insurance called Mutuelles de Santé. Very high coverage means that almost all Rwandans have access to health care. He also stressed the country’s interest in innovative technology and how drones are being used to deliver medical supplies to remote areas.

The APHN is grateful to members of the panel and to Prof. David Peters who helped fund the event via the Department of International Health.

For APHN: Joseph Uwazota, Jean Olivier Twahirwa Rwema, Zyleen Kassamali, Eve-Marie Benson, and Massah Massaquoi

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