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20th anniversary: PharmAccess tasks stakeholders on universal health coverage in sub-Saharan Africa

20th anniversary: PharmAccess tasks stakeholders on universal health coverage in sub-Saharan Africa

PharmAccess Foundation, an organization striving to make inclusive, digital health markets work in Africa, recently commemorated its 20-year anniversary with a call to action to key healthcare stakeholders in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, and Tanzania to transform health systems to create access to better healthcare for all.

There has been a steady increase in the health condition and lifespan of the population in sub-Saharan Africa due to (amongst others) reductions in infant and childhood mortality, increased access to medical treatment including for AIDS/HIV, and improved nutrition over the past decade.

Nevertheless, to receive quality health services, many face financial hardship through high out-of-pocket health costs—driving people to postpone or skip health visits entirely.

The United Nations officially designates 12 December as International Universal Health Coverage Day (UHC day), to hold leaders accountable to their promise of health for all. This was when PharmAccess marked its anniversary.

“This year’s UHC Day is the moment to ask our partners to fast track health systems transformation so we can reach the goal of access to quality healthcare for everyone, especially the poor,” said Nicole Spieker, chief executive officer, PharmAccess.

Spieker revealed that together with their African and international partners, the foundation has, over the past 20 years, enrolled millions of people into social health insurance programs.

PharmAccess utilizes innovative strategies such as mobile technology, sustainable finance models and financial protection for vulnerable and low-income groups.

In the context of 20-year PharmAccess, country offices are hosting a series of events addressing the biggest issues inhibiting inclusive healthcare in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, and Tanzania.

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In Ghana, PharmAccess works with the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), which has an active membership of over 12 million people. The organisation and the NHIA are strengthening their collaboration, working with data experts, offering support to institutionalise data insights, and further enhance the impact and sustainability of the most inclusive health insurance scheme in Africa.

In Nigeria, even though 34 out of 36 states have signed the health insurance bill to make health insurance mandatory for all, most of these states are still at the early stages of implementing these laws.

Universal health coverage in the country will only be reached through increased funding for health, and it was learnt that PharmAccess Nigeria seeks to facilitate and support discussions to identify alternate sources and place healthcare financing centrally on the policy agenda for the national, state, and local governments.

In a press statement, the foundation noted that mobile and digital technology is already fast-tracking improvements in virtually all sectors in Africa, but especially in Kenya, with a SIM penetration of 120 percent.

However, the health sector is yet to embrace the full potential of digital technology. Therefore, PharmAccess Kenya, together with the SDG coalition, will organize a convention to create synergies in technology and innovation, capitalizing on the opportunities at hand to improve healthcare financing.

According to the statement, PharmAccess Tanzania is organizing an event in Zanzibar around sustainable health financing and quality improvement with the intent to build stronger partnerships and inspire thought leadership.

“Over the past years, PharmAccess has developed models to improve access to and utilization of health services, particularly among the poor. Through digitalization, data insights, and dashboards, policymakers are empowered to make informed decisions. Now it is time to scale proven models to increase impact.

PharmAccess activities are supported by funding from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.” The statement read