• Thursday, July 18, 2024
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BusinessDay

Africa’s prescription for a healthy future beyond band-aids

EHA Clinics, Pan-Atlantic University, Bastion HMO partner to improve campus healthcare

The scars of Ebola and COVID-19 remain fresh across Africa. These public health emergencies exposed the vulnerabilities of its healthcare systems and highlighted the critical need for preparedness and responsiveness. However, these crises offer valuable lessons for building stronger health systems, which are the foundation of Africa’s economic future.

Learning from the frontlines eHealth Africa (eHA), a prominent organisation I’m proud to be a part of, offers a compelling case study. During the Ebola outbreak, eHA deployed call centres and contact-tracing solutions in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, playing a vital role in containing the spread. Their experience in Nigeria with polio eradication, establishing Emergency Operations Centres (EOCs), and strengthening vaccine delivery proved invaluable in the COVID-19 response. These examples demonstrate data-driven approaches, swift responses, and collaboration as keys to success.

 “Additionally, a robust healthcare system acts as a cornerstone for broader economic prosperity”. 

The business case for stronger health systems
For business leaders in Africa, investing in stronger health systems is not simply a social responsibility; it’s a sound business decision. The World Bank’s 2022 report, “Change Cannot Wait: Building Resilient Health Systems in the Shadow of COVID-19,” emphasises that strong health systems significantly contribute to economic gains during emergencies. This report highlights the positive correlation between health system resilience and economic growth.

Read also: Obi calls for reform of Nigeria’s healthcare, says life expectancy among lowest

A healthy workforce translates to increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, and lower healthcare costs for businesses. Additionally, a robust healthcare system acts as a cornerstone for broader economic prosperity. It fosters a more stable and attractive business environment, encouraging foreign investment and economic growth. This unfolds in several key ways.

First, a healthy workforce translates to a more productive and reliable pool of employees.

Second, strong health systems can prevent and manage chronic diseases, lowering healthcare costs for both businesses (through employee health insurance) and individuals. This frees up disposable income, potentially boosting consumer spending and overall economic activity.

Third, a well-functioning healthcare system signals a government’s commitment to its citizens’ well-being. This fosters investor confidence, making attracting foreign direct investment crucial for job creation and economic growth across all sectors.

In essence, stronger health systems create a virtuous cycle: healthier people, a more productive workforce, and a more attractive environment for investment.

Concrete strategies for the future

The recent health emergencies ripped through Africa’s healthcare systems, exposing their weaknesses. Therefore, building resilience requires a multi-faceted approach.

Here are some key strategies:

Increased public health infrastructure investment—strengthening laboratories for rapid diagnosis, upgrading disease surveillance systems for early detection, and expanding the pool of trained healthcare personnel—is critical. A swift and effective response to future outbreaks hinges on this foundation.

Leveraging technology and innovation: Investing in digital health solutions like mobile health (mHealth) and telemedicine can revolutionise healthcare delivery, particularly in remote areas.

eHA’s LoMIS Stock & Deliver platform exemplifies successful technology implementation for health commodity management. Training healthcare workers in these technologies can further improve access to care, disease management, and overall healthcare efficiency.

Public-private partnerships: Collaboration between governments, the private sector, and NGOs can leverage collective resources and expertise. These partnerships can play a vital role in financing key healthcare infrastructure, developing innovative solutions for health challenges, and ensuring efficient service delivery across the continent.

A call to action for business leaders:
Business leaders have a unique opportunity to be champions for stronger health systems in Africa. Their powerful voices can be leveraged in several ways. Engaging with policymakers allows them to push for increased investment in public health infrastructure, creating a solid foundation for a healthy population. They can also champion digital health initiatives like mHealth and telemedicine, transforming access to care, especially in remote areas. Additionally, supporting public-private partnerships fosters collaboration between governments, NGOs, and the private sector, maximising the impact of resources and expertise. Finally, investing in employee wellness programmes promotes healthy lifestyles within the workforce, not only benefiting employees’ health but also translating to a more productive and resilient business.

These actions empower business leaders to become catalysts for a healthier Africa, boosting economies through a more productive workforce and increased consumer spending.

Building a healthier Africa requires a collective effort. Businesses, governments, NGOs, and healthcare professionals all have a role to play. Through collaboration, we can unlock a healthier future for Africa.

About the Author:

Ota Akhigbe is a visionary leader and a tireless advocate for a more equitable Africa. Her dedication to social impact has resulted in positive change across the continent, making her an inspiration for all.