Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf called for increased investment into public health to build and strengthen community health systems at a recent webinar hosted by the Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).
During her opening remarks at the webinar, which was co-hosted by the African Union, Africa CDC, and the EJS Center, Madam Sirleaf stressed the important role of community health workers on the continent and urged leaders across Africa to scale up their financial commitments to community health systems:
“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to remind us that when it comes to the prevention, detection, response, and mitigation of health threats, a community-based approach is more critical, more sustainable.”
Better funding for healthcare workers also has a knock-on effect for overall community welfare. Madam Sirleaf pointed out that women make up 70% of the global health workforce, making significant unpaid or underpaid contributions to this sector: “When women get paid, children go to school.”
Continent-wide and multi-country approaches are essential for improving national health systems. For example, technical support is needed to institutionalize healthcare systems, and cross country approaches help with learning from one another. Reinvigorated and strengthened community health systems would see quicker responses to disease outbreaks by national authorities and governments, something not possible with current levels of funding in public health. Madam Sirleaf also stressed that local voices help ensure that health outcomes are consistent with national realities, and the pandemic presents the opportunity for countries to learn from the experiences of others:
“Now is the time for the world to think boldly. Now is the time to innovate and collaborate. It is a time to advocate for what is possible, to be able to address long-standing injustices and inequalities.”
The world should not have to face another pandemic, Madam Sirleaf said, and the world must learn from these lessons and realize our national and international responsibility to protect our health systems. She concluded by stating that this is possible by turning words into action, and emphasized the role of community health workers who have paved the way.
The webinar, titled ‘Cross Country Learnings on Community Health Systems Integration and Financing’ was co-hosted by Dr. John Nkengasong, Director of Africa CDC.
You can watch a full recording of the webinar here.