Closing The Health Gap For Africa Is Achievable

Closing the health gap for Africa within a generation is achievable if opportunities afforded by a rapidly growing workforce are seized…

Closing the health gap for Africa within a generation is achievable, according to a recent report published by The Lancet Commission (13 September 2017) on the future of health in sub-Saharan Africa.

Pace of progress at risk unless the following bold steps are taken now

  • Young people will be key to bringing about the changes required.
  • Emerging challenges must be tackled to prevent a double epidemic of infectious and chronic diseases such as stroke, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
  • In 2014, sub-Saharan Africa spent less than 3% of GDP on health. A more sustainable and efficient funding is essential.
  • Tackling the tobacco epidemic and stemming the rise in chronic disease rates represents a historic public health opportunity.
  • Each country must design its health system, based on local data, capacity, and priorities

The report warns that health systems that focus solely on hospitals and individual care are unlikely to lead to achievements – and that these systems even struggle to meet the demand of chronic diseases in many high-income countries.

A number of successes, including longer life expectancy, falls in maternal and child mortality, successful roll-out of life-saving vaccines, greater control of HIV and malaria epidemics, and the near eradication of polio and guinea worm, suggest that major milestones in health are within reach.

The report points to historic, not to be missed opportunities, including preventing a major tobacco epidemic by implementing tobacco control policies now. “The prevention of a major tobacco epidemic could be sub-Saharan Africa’s greatest historic public health opportunity,” says co-author Professor Peter Piot, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (UK).

Commenting on the launch of the report, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization and an initial member of The Lancet Africa Commission, adds: “Despite the challenges, the report’s message is one of optimism; that with the right approaches, Africa has the potential to close the health gap and reduce inequalities to ensure good health for all, with no one left behind.”

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