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Conference identifies new hopes for Nigeria’s Health Sector

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By Ndidi Chukwu

The pace of development in the Nigeria health sector in the last one decade has been very slow compared to recent happenings in other sectors of the Nigerian economy, health experts in Nigeria however see potentials in the future of Nigeria’s Health Sector .This setback was what the ‘The Future of Health Conference’ recently organized in Yar’adua Center Abuja by Nigeria Health Watch tried to address. The forum tried to articulate the aspirations of various participants in the Nigeria Health sector following the recent election in Nigeria.

Future of Health Conference a concept of the “Nigeria’s Health Watch” a nonprofit organization doing advocacy for health in Nigeria targets to “bring health and its challenges to the public domain, to ensure participation of all Nigerians including professionals so that together Nigerians can demand for better health policies and action” Dr. Chikwe Ihekwazu, Managing Partner of EpiAfric, and blogger at Nigeria Health Watch, told Health Reporters that

“What we tried to do at the Future of Health Conference is to bring together inspiring speakers that are responding to some of the toughest challenges facing the Nigerian Health Sector from the public, private and non-governmental sectors. Speakers tried to reflect the breadth of the sector and put forward ideas that we hope will help meet the hopes and aspirations of Nigerians and set the agenda for the new administration” Chikwe said.

He said the issues affecting Nigerian health sector require such event, to share ideas on gains of improving the health of the nation, “the sector has been grossly underfunded, with shortage of skilled healthcare practitioners and poor quality of service in many public and private health establishments. Constant disagreements among health sector professionals and incessant industrial actions and strikes have further led to the perception of doom” Chikwe told participants at the conference and expressed optimism at the future which the conference projects.

Panellist at the conference also expressed optimism over what the future will be if the new government will invest wisely in the nation’s health sector. Topical issues raised and discussed by most of the panellist basically tried to see how Primary Health Care issues could be addressed and how to engage state governments towards addressing low utilization of the Primary Health Care System in the nation. Dr. Nnnenna Ihebuzor, Director of Primary Health Care Systems Development in NPHCDA  said “the Federal Government has been spending on tertiary hospitals at the expense of the Primary Health Care Centers” Dr. Ihebuzor’s views the state of PHC as one seeking urgent upgrade as PHC captures over 70 percent of the needed health care services in Nigeria.

Inspiring talks also emanated on innovative financing for health, where Dr. Clare Omatseye, a seasoned pharmacist and CEO of JNC International said the concept of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) for health development in Nigeria is not utilized to benefit private health practitioners and at the same time bring money into the health sector.

The Conference featured  Dr. Muhammad Ali Pate, Former Minister of State for Health, and Former Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Dayo Adeyanju Commissioner for Health in Ondo State, Professor Shima Gyoh President of Society for Family Health and a onetime Permanent Secretary of the Federal  Ministry of Health,  Dr. Iko Ibanga, CEO ProHealth International, Fola Laoye, Chairman of Hygeia Nigeria Limited, Remi Adeseun, CEO Rodot Consulting Nigeria Limited, Dr. Femi Sumonu, CEO of Purple Source Company, Robert Yates, Project Director, Universal Health Coverage Policy Forum, Chatham House UK, Dr. Ola Soyinka Former Commissioner for Health in Ogun State, Dr. Kelechi Ohiri Managing Director Health Strategy and Delivery Foundation, Dr NNenna Ihebuzor, Director Primary Health Care Systems Development of NPHCDA  and Dr. Clare Omatseye of JNC International.

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