It takes a Minister (Health)

Posted by News Express | 23 December 2019 | 2,541 times

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Let us remember that we are in a representative democracy. This means that we elect fellow Nigerians to represent us in government. To pursue policies that keep us safe, secure and thriving as individuals, households, and communities. This comes with delegated power, not to be abused. Such power should be humbling and inspiring. Those entrusted with our collective power have a unique opportunity to serve. And as they give off their time and talent, paying great attention to the nuances in our complex ecosystem, they can make our lives and country better and be happy.

For the above to happen however, we require a constitutional order. One that is of the people, that connects our diversity, defines our national values and principles; and sets out much clearer our national purpose and aspiration. Such a constitution would be the cause and the reinforced-effect of the appropriate and suitable political and socioeconomic structures supporting an environment where “the people” is sovereign, and can freely provide informed consent. This is what it means to be a republic. It is always about the mandate of “the people”. It is never about the right of a politician in a republic, a democracy. “The people” lend their mandate. They expect their mandate to be used responsibly and to serve them. They retain the right to whether or not to continue to consent. If there is no informed consent, there is no democracy.

One area where “the people” expect to be served is access to health care. Really, health is the economy. For, people consume goods and services to ‘maintain’ and ‘protect’ their physical and mental health. Economies require people in stable physical and mental health to produce goods and services to support supply chains. So, health care affects supply and demand sides in population in fundamental and profound ways. Universal Health Coverage (UHC) makes a compelling moral and economic case.

According to The World Health Organisation, UHC is about “ensuring that all people have access to needed health services (including prevention, promotion, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliation) of sufficient quality to be effective while also ensuring that the use of these services does not expose the user to financial hardship.” There are many implications regarding UHC. It is about healthcare inputs (human, materials, and systems) and the process of converting inputs into health outcomes. It is about financing, data & intelligence, and accountability. It is about global value and supply chains and where a country is located on these vital chains that can be a strength or a weakness. It is about the nature of our healthcare system and markets and how it affects our national purpose and aspirations.

Everything affects health care and health care affects everything. Our approach to healthcare has to be integrated and far-reaching to trigger whole system response. You cannot finance access to healthcare “at the point of need” for the entire population in a sustainable way (general taxation, health insurance or both) with the current level of corruption and unemployment (especially youth unemployment) in Nigeria. It is aggregate productivity and competitiveness that creates wealth. It is what creates a strong economy. A strong economy is required to finance healthcare value and supply chains, which in turn significantly contributes to economic growth.

Health and the social factors that determine it.

Healthcare and education are interrelated and complementary to human capital development. Nigeria requires a coherent social and economic strategy built on the pillars of education and health to makes vital development transitions. It is possible. It is all about ambition, inspiration, and commitment. This requires leadership to address:

1. Housing supply as a social and economic strategy. Imagine the impact on health, data, social and physical security, jobs, poverty, and the economy if we can unlock local value and supply chains to build a “home for every Nigerians and road to every home”.

2. Transportation System that is safe, comfortable and that runs on time to keep Nigerians moving. Connecting and uniting Nigerians. Imagine the potential impact on health, jobs, poverty, the economy, and peaceful coexistence.

3. Imagine the impact on health, jobs, the economy, the environment and security, if we could transform our energy mix; ensure stable, sustainable and affordable power, water and Internet services.

The Minister(s) and Ministry of Health, would have to think and act in an industry environment, to ensure that there is “Health in every Policy”. When health care is seen as an industry with value chains to support demand and supply sides, we would address supply and demand-side issues to attract multi-sector investments. This will require diagnosing constraints and resolving them. While making the case for increased government investments in health, the Ministers of Health and the Federal Ministry of Health, have to lead in liaison with the Central Bank of Nigeria, Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment, Federal Ministry of Finance, and other ministries, and the Legislature, in attracting private sector investments in health, create wealth and expand fiscal space.

There are massive opportunities for products and services in Financing for Health; Manufacturing for Health; Logistics for Health; Information and Communication Technology for Health; Biomedical Technological Research for Health and Nutrition; Human Resources for Health; Technology Appraisals for Health. The diverse but interconnected value and supply chains that these investments can unlock can be transformative. It can modify healthcare-related imports, create medium and high end local tax-paying jobs, generate tax revenue and position the health care industry to directly contribute to economic development. Hard, innovative and imaginative work is required.

Below are just a few much easier and practical work that the Ministers of Health can lead on right away include:

1. Review and consolidate the contents of the websites of the Federal Ministry of Health and its Agencies, Departments, and Parastatals. Nigerians need accurate and timely information and education on home treatment and prevention of common illnesses. Nigerians also require accurate information and education on common disease emergencies and epidemics and what Nigerians should do in communities to prevent epidemics. Information should be pushed and pulled.

2. The Ministers and the Ministry of Health should lead by example in advocating and improving Health & Safety at its Secretariat and the Office Premises of its Agencies, Departments and Health Facilities. It can then provide guidance and encourage compliance with Health & Safety best practices in all Federal Government offices and sites, public buildings and spaces, private sector premises and sites, hospitals, schools, hotels, and other places.

This article has been contributed towards promoting a better Nigeria for all. Our country is down already. We should not be easily satisfied with quick-wins and short-term gains that push the cans down the road. This approach will cause long-term pains later. We should be far-sighted enough to begin to address root causes.

Source: News Express

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