MSH Expert Calls for Increased Investment in Health in Africa
MSH’s Global Technical Lead for Family Planning/Reproductive Health, Dr. Issakha Diallo, opened an international public health conference in Senegal on April 16 by stressing the need for investment in health to drive development. He called public health the “spearhead of economic development and the engine of production.” Using the example of malaria, he linked people’s health to their ability to work: “It rains, the farmer falls ill, he doesn’t go to the fields, and crop production is lost.”
The conference, the first International Public Health Days, was put on by the Association Sénégalaise des Professionnels de Santé Publique (Senegalese Association of Public Health Professionals) in Dakar from April 16 through 18. The meeting took place at the Université Cheikh Anta Diop, under the auspices of the Ministry of Health and Prevention.
Dr. Diallo stressed that Senegal—which ranked 153rd out of 179 countries in the UNDP’s Human Development Index in 2008—would save $186 billion every year by investing in primary health care. For example, spending one dollar on family planning each year would yield eight dollars for the nation. Worldwide, the lives of 8 million women per year could be saved.
If maternal mortality continues unchecked, maternal illness and disabilities will cost $45 billion. Dr. Diallo emphasized that “maternal mortality is catastrophic, not only from social, moral, and ethical perspectives, but also from an economic perspective, because the contribution of the African women to development is no longer in question.”
The problem is not lack of funding, according to Dr. Diallo, but lack of partnership and coordination to benefit from the resources available from agencies such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Local organizations, moreover, need assistance to use these resources effectively. Diallo advocated a “new dynamic in North-South relations” that would take development strategies into account in the area of health.
This story was based on information from the Agence de Presse Sénégalaise (www.alpha-2.info), Consortium d’Etudes et de Réalisations Techniques, and « Le Soleil » (www.allAfrica.com).