Stephen Odindo and Howard Akimala
In early March, more than 1,500 health stakeholders from around Africa met in Kigali, Rwanda for the Africa Health Agenda International Conference (AHAIC), the largest health-related conference in the continent. With a theme of achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) by 2030, Rwanda was the natural host for the conference. The country has made great strides in delivering health for all, with up to 90 percent of the country’s 12 million population covered by the government’s community-based health insurance for primary, secondary, and tertiary care. Adding to the country’s success, Rwanda has a network of more than 60,000 community health workers (CHWs) who provide primary care and referral services in villages.
Community Health in the Spotlight
The conference provided a platform for fostering new ideas and home-grown solutions to Africa’s most pressing health challenges. Living Goods added our voice to the conversation and shared our best practices in delivering high-quality community health through five presentations made by staff. Our presentations showcased studies on CHW attrition, return on investment for community health, ensuring accountability at the last mile to deliver high-quality care, and using technology to enhance service delivery and data collection.
During the conference, health stakeholders documented many best practices in supporting CHWs to help other African countries replicate and build stronger community health programs. Further, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched new guidelines on health policy and system support to optimize community health worker programs. These guidelines are in alignment with the WHO workforce 2030 global strategy on human resources for health, which includes targets such as halving inequalities to health worker access. The guideline lists 15 policy and effective workforce strategy recommendations ranging from CHW selection, training, management, and integration, to implementation and evaluation considerations at the community level.
Strong Political Will Going Forward:
The conference featured strong representation from government leaders throughout Africa. An inter-ministerial panel hosted by the Ethiopia, Uganda, and Rwanda’s State Ministers of Health and Kenya’s Chief Administrative Secretary for Health, highlighted the importance of governments translating UHC commitments into measurable achievements such as increased domestic financing. The panel also emphasized that the need to make quality healthcare accessible to everyone begins within the community with scalable community-based health insurance programs.
At the end of the conference, African leaders released a communique calling for an increase in domestic financing and greater political prioritization for evidence-based and cost-effective health solutions. Eleven parliamentarians from Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, and Zambia committed to strengthen health systems, address health inequities, support community health, and ensure universal access to immunization to drive progress on UHC in their countries.