The issue of healthcare is a pressing concern for many countries all over the world. While the advances in technology transform the way healthcare is delivered, a lot of people still suffer from inadequate healthcare coverage and even simple access to better care.
Outbreaks like Ebola prove that Africa as a continent that still needs huge improvement in the healthcare system. The challenges are numerous, from insufficient healthcare professionals and poor infrastructures to lack of funds and weak organizations. Although public health care exists, it leaves much to be desired. Affluent families would rather make use of private health care facilities where they can receive better treatment.
These are deeply concerning, especially if we take into consideration how the spread of contagious diseases in recent times can take a toll on a weak healthcare system. People who do not have access to health care will pay the price and suffer the most.
The first step in tackling these problems and looking for ways to improve always starts in identifying what needs to be addressed.
Lack of Funds
In 2017, the regional director of the World Health Organization (WHO) cited the lack of funding as the number one obstacle in the fight to improve healthcare in Africa. This was after a series of diseases plagued the continent, from Malaria to Ebola. Hundreds of thousands of deaths were reported, mainly due to a lack of access to life-saving treatments.
The same problem is faced by most Africans today. While the rest of the world spends 10 times more on healthcare, the continent accounted for just 1% when it comes to global health expenditures.
This can be rectified only by overcoming the huge gaps in health care finance. Many experts point to closer and stronger public-private sector partnerships. The private sector can do a lot to alleviate overtaxed state facilities by investing in healthcare infrastructures and joining the government in various programs that aim to widen access to health care for the majority of the population.
Medical Brain Drain
Another major concern for the continent is the shortage of skilled healthcare professionals. Many of them have moved abroad for higher wages and better work environment. In recent years, healthcare jobs in the US are on the rise, making it a magnet for many Africans who look for greener pastures. As a result, the ratio of doctors to the population has become grossly inadequate.
While Africa bears 24% of the global burden of disease, the continent has access to only 3% of healthcare workers. In line with this, the best course of action would be to train and provide better opportunities for African healthcare professionals to encourage them to stay and serve their own countries.
Convincing them to stay in their countries must entail commitment from the government and private partners to provide them with the best incentives such as higher wages, access to housing, and clear-cut career paths.
Poor Medical Infrastructures
Healthcare infrastructures are a struggle for many African countries as they find it more difficult to cope with the growing medical needs of their populations. This problem can paralyze the growth and improvement of the overall healthcare systems if not addressed properly.
Many public hospitals rely on traditional equipment that is sorely inadequate and ineffective in meeting the demands of the people. While private medical facilities fare better, ordinary people have limited access to it because of financial constraints. Poor infrastructure is also one of the reasons why medical professionals move abroad to practice.
To address this particular issue, African governments must strive to put suitable policies in place and ensure sufficient healthcare fund that can be invested for better infrastructure.
This ties us back to the need for stronger cooperation between the government and the private sectors. The latter can close the gap in the lack of funding by investing in the much-needed medical facilities and infrastructures.
The healthcare concern of Africa is a shared responsibility of all the people all over the continent. By identifying the challenges, we have a better chance of brainstorming for solutions and taking the necessary actions to improve Africa’s healthcare system. It can’t be done overnight, but we can start small and work from there.