Accelerating Knowledge Exchange Across Borders in East, Central and Southern Africa
This month I had the privilege of attending the East Central and Southern African Health Community’s (ECSA-HC) 8th Best Practices Forum in Tanzania. In addition to sharing best practices in universal health coverage, human resources for health, and communicable and non-communicable diseases, the Forum celebrated ECSA-HC’s 40th anniversary of fostering regional cooperation to improve health.
Forum attendees also welcomed ECSA-HC’s new Director General, Professor Yoswa Dambisya, an expert in human resources for health.
According to it's website, ECSA-HC is an intergovernmental organization that "works with countries and partners to raise the standard of health for the people of the ECSA region by promoting efficiency and effectiveness of health services through cooperation, collaboration, research, capacity building, policy development and advocacy. Member states of the ECSA Health Community include Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Seychelles, Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe."
Many Forum presenters highlighted the importance of knowledge exchange when crises arise and budgets are stretched thin. This was most apparent when Dr. Francis Adatu shared how Uganda overcame outbreaks of Ebola in years past and during discussion about multidrug-resistant tuberculosis and artemisinin resistance. Noncommunicable diseases and gender-based violence were also recognized as public health crises, although they do not receive the same level of attention in the region.
Wairimu Gakuo, Director of the USAID East Africa Mission’s Office of Health and HIV/AIDS, referenced mobile health as a knowledge management tool for reproductive and maternal health. She suggested that science, technology, and innovation can spark progress and new partnerships for effective responses.
The Forum’s main audience consisted of experts from member states who constitute ECSA-HC’s Directors’ Joint Consultative Committee (DJCC). The DJCC consists of Directors of Health Services; Heads of Health Training Institutions; and Heads of Health Research Institutions of the East, Central and Southern Africa Health Community. It is the highest technical organ of the ECSA Health Community.
The DJCC made recommendations for deliberation at the 60th Health Ministers Conference where ECSA-HC resolutions will be adopted and the direction of the region’s health efforts set. The Health Ministers Conference will pay special attention to how global progress in health will be measured after the 2015 Millennium Development Goal agenda is concluded. Many challenges facing ECSA-HC in the next decade can be met with tools such as mHealth and knowledge management as well as the technical experts who advocate at the highest levels for the health of the people in the East, Central and Southern Africa region.