TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2016

Chan optimistic in address to Regional Committee for Africa

World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan discussed positive changes and room for growth in Africa on Monday during an address to the Regional Committee for Africa in Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo.

Chan said Africa has made a remarkable turnaround in its healthcare, economy and social change in the last decade. She said the region has an opportunity to ensure that improved economic growth lifts millions out of poverty and ill health using equitable public spending. Chan made three main recommendations to the African continent going forward.

The first message related to the introduction of public spending policies by African governments that make equity an explicit objective.

"Economic assumptions that wealth will somehow automatically trickle down from the privileged few to benefit the masses have been soundly refuted," Chan said. "Africa's decade of remarkable economic growth has not been matched by equally remarkable gains for health. Growth in (gross domestic product) is not the real measure of progress. What matters most is the rate at which new wealth is converted into less poverty, more opportunities, and better health."

Chan also recommended that the solutions to health problems are developed in Africa. She said African countries tend to move faster and further to improve aid effectiveness when they have their own development partners in place.

Lastly, Chan recommended that African governments move their health systems toward universal coverage.

"Universal coverage makes equity an explicit policy objective," Chan said. "Investment in social protection is one of the most powerful ways for African governments to extend the benefits of resource wealth to their citizens. Well-designed social safety nets can build resilience among vulnerable populations, support growth, and reduce social inequalities."

Chan acknowledged that conditions are bleak for many millions of Africans. Chan said she is personally optimistic about the future of health in Africa after several countries addressed barriers to health and made progress despite the odds.