Column on Health and Environment
Health Ministry Validates 2014 - 2020 Strategic Plans
By Sise Sawaneh, Banjul, The Gambia, West Africa
The Permanent Secretary Macky Taal deputizing the health minister said the advancement of the Strategic Plan
was among the first processes the Health Minister initiated after his appointment in August 2013 and its overall goal is to help significantly reduce inequalities in health care services and reserve the downward trend in health related outcome indicators.
PS Taal made this remark at a two-day workshop held at the Paradise Suites Hotel to validate its 2014-2020 Strategic Plans.
He further explained that in order for an entity or sector to be successful, there needs to be a roadmap for success. According to him, the Plan if validated would serve as a guide in providing the health sector medium term focus, objectives and priorities to enable it move forward towards the attainment of the Gambia’s Health Policy Directions.
“It will also serve as a catalyst for engaging stakeholders within and outside the government sector in addressing the broad determinants of health, which are beyond the purview of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare,” he asserted.
The successful implementation of this strategic plan he added, is essential for achieving health for all, the Vision 2020, the PAGE and health related MDGs. He added. PS Taal also stated that the availability of a National Sectoral Strategic Plan is high on the agenda of the President of the Republic and during the State Opening of Parliament he pronounced that all Government Sectors have a sectoral Strategic Plan added that the plan will also provide a way for his Ministry to determine its mission, purpose and underpinning values to guide their activities.
He cited that the document would help to increase and strengthen ownership for health by creating a new window of opportunity for the health sector to engage all the relevant stakeholders that have influence on health creation and development in a sustainable manner.
“It ensures the alignment of our priorities and activities with the government’s policies and priorities and outlines how they will deliver on the government’s policy agenda,” said P.S.Taal.
Momodou Ceesay speaking on behalf of the WHO Representative affirmed that the development of this plan is a cause for celebration. “Time is running out for achieving the MDGs and the Vision 2020 by the end of the implementation of the Strategic Plan it will be year 2020. Ceesay said.
He further stated that it also calls for a moment of deep reflection on the areas where all concerned stakeholders would like to see much improvement in the delivery of health services in the Gambia.
There is need for all stakeholders in the health sector to work together and apply a concerted effort in helping the Gambia to overcome the key health issues facing the country including the control of communicable diseases as well as the management of the non communicable diseases of emerging importance,” he advised.
Ceesay cited that the credible effort to overcome these issues must include a program to strengthen the health system that is responsible for delivering the health service for the nation, he added. Mr. Ceesay assured them of WHO’s support towards the implementation of the Strategic Plan.
On his part, the Director of Planning and Information Omar Bun Njie, said the Strategic Plan development is an overdue process that should have been accomplished long time ago.
He depicts the Strategic Plan as important for any institution more so the Health Ministry, thus calling on them to give it the attention it deserves. During the process of the development of the plan,
Mr. Njie noted that they have gone through lots of hitches but now they have the privilege to come up with a comprehensive document that they can rely on to ensure a good health service delivery.
He recalled that it was in August 2013 when the Minister took up the challenge and commitment for the Ministry to have a Strategic Plan that would spell out the way forward for the Ministry. Njie described Strategic Plan as important for any institution more so the Health Ministry, thus calling on them to give it the attention it deserves. During the process of the development of the plan.
THE ECOHEALTH 2014 CONFERENCE
Co-hosted by the Canadian Community of Practice in EcoHealth (CoPEH-Canada) and the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on Well-Being, Health, Society and Environment (Cinbiose) of the Université du Québec at Montréal (UQAM). EcoHealth 2014 will be held in Montréal from August 11th to 15th, 2014.
Ecohealth is a field that strives for "sustainable health of people, wildlife and ecosystems by promoting discovery, understanding and transdisciplinarity" (IAEH). The growth in interest and scholarly engagement with ecohealth is demonstrated by the strong communities of practice, groups and networks that have developed, by institutional uptake by large organizations such as the Pan-American Health Organization and through the continued development of the EcoHealth journal and International Association of Ecology & Health (IAEH).
EcoHealth 2014 is the fifth international conference organized under the auspices of the IAEH. Previous biennial conferences were held in Wisconsin (2006), Mérida (2008), London (2010) and Kunming (2012).
A precursor to these conferences was the Forum on Ecosystem Approaches to Human Health organized by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and its partners and held in Montréal in 2003. The goal of this Forum was to provide a platform for a discussion of ecosystem approaches to human health, evidence from the field, and the relevance of these approaches to improving health and well-being.
Complex challenges continue to emerge at the intersection of ecosystems, society and the health of humans, animals and other species. In an effort to bring sustainable and integrated responses to these challenges, various practices and approaches have emerged, with names such as ecology and health, ecosystem approaches to human health, One Health, socioecological thinking, resilience thinking, healthy settings (Healthy Cities, Healthy Parks – Healthy People), ecological economics, "future earth" or environmental justice.
One of the goals of the EcoHealth 2014 Conference is to acknowledge the diversity within the field of ecohealth. Additionally, the conference is designed to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and relationship-building between these ideas and the groups that support them. As a result, the theme for EcoHealth 2014 is Connections for health, ecosystems and society. These connections are critical for the development of the field of ecohealth as well as to an international, interdisciplinary and intersectoral conversation about environment (natural and social), health and equity.
EcoHealth conferences are characterized by being open to innovative ways of thinking within and beyond academia and by encouraging transdisciplinary, integrated approaches to health that consider humans, animals and other species. For researchers, educators, practitioners and decision-makers, EcoHealth conferences provide a range of opportunities to foster connections among diverse disciplines and approaches.
For EcoHealth 2014, the central theme of Connections for health, ecosystems and society reinforces the importance of connections and learning among the various approaches and perspectives that compose the mosaic of the field, and encourages involvement of collaborators from outside of academia to participate actively in the conference. We hope the conference will help build new connections between groups and individuals working to find solutions to the complex array of problems emerging at the confluence of health, environment and society.
Three main themes have been put forward for EcoHealth 2014 Conference:
For more official details see: ECOHEALTH 2014
Permanent Secretary briefs journalists on WAHO 27th celebration
By Sise Sawaneh, Banjul, The Gambia, West Africa
The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare recently briefed journalists on the celebration of the 27th anniversary of the West Africa Health Organization (WAHO) held at its conference hall in Banjul with the 2014 theme “Universal Health Coverage Issues, Challenges and Opportunities.”
Speaking at the press briefing Dr Macky Taal, permanent secretary, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, said the day which is celebrated every July, as an honor from the ECOWAS heads of state and governments who adopted the protocol that established WAHO with the main mission to attain the highest possible standard and protection of health of the people in the sub-region through the coordination of the policies of member states, and win others for a collective and strategic combat against the health problems afflicting the sub-region, pooling of resources and to focus on health promotion and strengthening of Primary Health Care, as part of the Universal Health Coverage.
He cited that WAHO continues to be a proactive tool for regional integration in health for the development and implementation of high impact interventions and programmes within the community through evaluation and dissemination, capacity building, data collection, coordination, communication technology and sustaining productive partnerships.
PS Taal further explained that for a community or country to achieve universal health coverage, several factors must be in place including a strong efficient, well run health system that meets priority health needs through people centered integrated care including services for HIV, , malaria, non communicable diseases, tuberculosis, maternal and child health among others adding that the goal of universal health coverage is to ensure that all people obtain the health services they need without suffering financial hardship when paying for them “universal health coverage had a direct impact on a population’s health and access to health services enables people to be more productive and active contributors to their families and communities” Mr. Taal asserted.
He affirmed that WAHO continues to be an affirmative tool for regional integration in health for the development and implementation of high impact interventions and programmes within the community through capacity building, data collection, evaluation and dissemination, promoting cooperation and coordination among others.
Taal emphasized that to achieve this goal; they must plan a proper alleyway for their health systems and strike the right balance between the justifiable health expectations of the populations and the current situation in the sub-region.
Dawda Ceesay, deputy permanent secretary and WAHO Liason officer at the Ministry of Health and Momodou Njai all shared similar sentiments by acknowledging the importance of the day.
MATERNAL AND CHILD HEALTH REPORTING CONTEST
Stories focusing on maternal and child health published, broadcast or posted online in Brazil, China, India and Russia between December 1, 2013, and May 19, 2014, qualify for the contest. The deadline for submitting stories is May 19, 2014.
One winner from each country will receive a cash prize and a 10-day study tour to the United States. Contest topics may include:
• Reducing maternal, infant and child mortality
• Reducing disease transmission from mother to child
• Preventing malnutrition
• Improving delivery of care and infrastructure for maternal and child health
• Innovative approaches to delivery of vaccines
Journalists employed by print, broadcast or online media in each country qualify. The contest also is open to affiliated freelance journalists. Submitted work must have appeared in a media outlet based in each region or distributed mainly in the region. Submissions may be made in English , Hindi (India), Mandarin/Cantonese (China), Portuguese (Brazil), Russian (Russia). Submissions in other languages must include an English translation. Applicants may submit more than one entry.
Winners will be announced on June 23, 2014. Please post stories you enter on Twitter and use the hashtag #ICFJhealth.
Source: World Federation of Science Journalists
Media campaign on ‘A Smoke Free the Gambia’ launched
By Sise Sawaneh, The Gambia, West Africa
The Ministry of Health through its Non-communicable Diseases Unit under the directorate of Health Promotion and Education launched “A Smoke Free the Gambia” Campaign on tobacco control held at the Paradise Suites on Wednesday.
The Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Hon. Omar Sey, presided over the launching ceremony by thanking the World Lung Foundation for the laudable initiative and Solar Company for their efforts in making the event a success by developing the campaign materials.
“There is no doubt that the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare strongly believes that effective tobacco control is beyond a single ministry, organization or institution. Hence, the timeliness and importance launching “A Smoke Free the Gambia” campaign cannot be overstated,” he affirmed.
Globally, “tobacco epidemic kills six million people each year of which more than 600,000 are non-smokers dying from breathing second-hand smoke” he added.
“Unless we act, the epidemic will kill more than eight million people every year by 2030. More than 80 percent of these preventable deaths will be among people living in low- and middle-income countries,” the minister stated.
According to the statistics, tobacco use, particularly cigarette smoking, was on the increase among both the adolescent and adult populations in The Gambia, he outlined.
Sey revealed that a recent research suggests that smoking prevalence in the adolescent population aged 13 to 15 years was estimated at 24.5 per cent, the majority, 28.1 per cent of which are boys, and 31 percent prevalence rate among youth population aged 25-34 years.
An average adult Gambian male aged 25 to 64 years smoke about 10 sticks of cigarette a day, he said, adding that this is indicative of a very high level of cigarette consumption in the country and needs programmes like, “A Smoke Free the Gambia” which has been launched for smoking cessation.
Health minister said the health risks associated with cigarette smoking and the use of tobacco in general was a worrying situation for The Gambia, as it was shown to be responsible for 5 per cent of all deaths due to non-communicable disease in population aged 30 years and above.
Sey then urged all Gambians and those residing in The Gambia that they all have a responsibility to implement, “A Smoke Free the Gambia” initiative.
Dr Charles Sagoe-Moses, World Health Organisation (WHO) Representative to The Gambia, thanked the World Lung Foundation for supporting this laudable initiative and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare for implementing it.
He described the move as a giant step The Gambia has taken in fulfillment of its obligation to the implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC).
West Africa Ebola outbreak still spreading, 'situation serious': WHO
BY STEPHANIE NEBEHAY AND SALIOU SAMB
GENEVA/CONAKRY Wed May 28,
(Reuters) - Guinea's capital Conakry has recorded its first new Ebola cases in more than a month, while other previously unaffected areas have also reported infections in the past week, according to the World Health Organisation.
The spread of the two-month-old outbreak, which Guinean authorities earlier said had been contained, risks further complicating the fight against the virus in a region already struggling with weak healthcare systems and porous borders.
"The situation is serious, you can't say it is under control as cases are continuing and it is spreading geographically," Dr Pierre Formenty, a WHO expert who recently returned from Guinea, told a news briefing in Geneva on Wednesday.
"There was no decline. In fact it is because we are not able to capture all the outbreak that we were under the impression there was a decline," he said.
The WHO reported two new cases, including one death, between May 25 and 27 in Conakry. They were the first to be detected since April 26. An outbreak in the capital could pose the biggest threat because the city is Guinea's international travel hub.
Telimele and Boffa - two districts north of Conakry previously untouched by the disease - both confirmed outbreaks through laboratory testing, the WHO said. Twelve cases, including four deaths, were reported there between May 23 and 26, while suspected Ebola infections were documented in the adjacent districts of Boke and Dubreka.
Aboubacar Sidiki Diakité, who heads the Guinean government's efforts to halt the virus's spread, said the origins of all the new outbreaks had been traced back to cases in Conakry.
"The problem is that there are families that refuse to give information to health workers. They hid their sick to try to treat them through traditional methods," he told Reuters.
The outbreak - the first deadly appearance of the haemorrhagic fever in West Africa - has spread from a remote corner of Guinea to the capital and into Liberia.
Sierra Leone reported its first confirmed outbreak of the disease earlier this week. [ID:nL6N0OC39O]
Families of three people hospitalised with suspected Ebola and one confirmed case have removed their loved ones from a clinic in eastern Sierra Leone because they feared the consequences of medical care, said senior Sierra Leone health official Amara Jambal.
"We do not have any idea where they (the four patients) are. Worried? As a doctor I should be worried because an infected person on the loose is not what we want," Jambal told Reuters, adding that those infected should be in isolation.
Formenty said authorities would pursue dialogue with the families in an attempt to get the missing people back into care.
The WHO has documented a total of 281 clinical cases of Ebola, including 185 deaths in Guinea since the virus was first identified as Ebola in March.
The disease is thought to have killed 11 people in Liberia, though there have been no new cases there since April 9.
Sixteen cases - seven of them confirmed through laboratory testing and another nine suspected - have been reported in Sierra Leone's Kailahun district, where four people are believed to have died of the disease.
Ebola, which has a fatality rate of up to 90 percent, is endemic to Democratic Republic ofCongo, Gabon, Uganda and South Sudan. Researchers believe the West African outbreak was caused by a new strain of the virus. [ID:nL6N0N94AE]
(Additional reporting and writing by Joe Bavier in Abidjan; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Andrew Roche)