Newsroom & Blog

Mar 30, 2023   |   Blog Post

Responsive Primary Health Care Takes Center Stage at AHAIC 2023

Claudia Shilumani of VillageReach and Michael Ngigi of ThinkPlace reflect after the workshop. Photo credit: Amref Africa

By Tom Foot

Communications Manager

“What could the future of African health care look like?” Dr. Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, Acting Director of the Africa CDC, asked during the opening plenary of the African Health Agenda International Conference (AHAIC) 2023, “Re-envisioning the future now – it is not easy to do, but we will give it our best shot!”

Indeed, for future generations, we must.

AHAIC was held in Kigali, Rwanda, in early March 2023, bringing together Africa’s top thought leaders, political figures, innovators, researchers, policymakers, health workers and community mobilisers for dialogue and action under the banner of “Resilient Health Systems for Africa: Re-envisioning the Future Now.”

Responsive Primary Health Care

Against a global backdrop of rising socioeconomic and health inequality, there is an urgent need to transform how we deliver care to the most vulnerable communities in a way that centers under-reached people.

One of the key ways to achieve this is through responsive primary health care (PHC). Responsive PHC systems meet the needs of the populations served by delivering accessible, patient-centered, comprehensive, and coordinated care that responds to the changing health needs of all communities, including the under-reached. Insights on the needs and preferences of under-reached populations are essential to building resilient health systems that can withstand shocks and stresses. Strong PHC systems are responsive PHC systems.

We will need radical collaboration between partners and across sectors to help co-create and champion this vision. That is why VillageReach joined AHAIC as silver sponsors to co-convene a conference event with ThinkPlace called “What does it take to build responsive Primary Health Care systems?”

Thinking caps on

This event, attended by an exciting mix of governments, implementers, activists, funders and academics, was a first step to driving an ecosystem shift towards responsive PHC systems that address health inequities. We all donned our “creative thinking hats” and embraced the spirit of robust, experimental discussion to develop concrete learnings that will help inform the development of responsive PHC models that can be tested and adapted for every country’s benefit.

Centered around three cores questions, our “teams” discussed how they had incorporated insights on the health care needs and preferences of under-reached communities into their work and made care more effective and efficient by focusing on people first. They also discussed their challenges and how they were working to overcome them.

We were encouraged by the strength of participants’ engagement and inspired by what they were already doing to improve health care in their respective countries. Claudia Shilumani, VillageReach’s Vice President of Partnerships & Impact, concluded the workshop with a call to action to form partnerships that will strengthen responsive PHC systems across Africa.

Key takeaways

Here are some of our key takeaways from the “What does it take to build responsive Primary Health Care (PHC) systems?” session:

  • There is a growing consensus that responsive PHC is the key to building resilient health systems.
  • There is a need to improve access to effective, efficient and quality care to under-reached communities.
  • There is scope and appetite for more research on the effectiveness of responsive PHC interventions across Africa.
  • An enabling environment within which responsive PHC systems can operate effectively is critical, including providing adequate infrastructure, ensuring sufficient finance, and creating policies and regulations that support the sustainability of responsive PHC systems.
  • There are existing people-centered programs and systems that can be built upon to serve communities better. It is more desirable to do so than to reinvent the wheel.
  • We must position responsive PHC models to not only gather insights from under-reached communities but also to use that information to respond to the needs of communities to build trust in health systems and “close the loop.”
What comes next?

VillageReach has over twenty years of experience supporting governments to deliver data-driven, patient-centered health care to the last mile, working hand-in-hand with diverse communities. We’ve conducted research on why children aren’t getting all their vaccines, developed a framework to build equity into immunization supply chains and supported efforts to help community health workers address vaccine misinformation, via Health Center by Phone in Malawi, for example.

AHAIC 2023 was a valuable opportunity for policymakers, health care professionals, and other stakeholders to discuss how to improve health care in Africa. We were pleased to have played a role in raising awareness of the importance of responsive PHC, and that our workshop generated concrete ideas for how to strengthen it, which will now be taken forward in a series of global focus groups over the coming months.

Above all, everyone agreed that building responsive PHC systems is essential to creating a healthier Africa, and it will be vital, therefore, to work together to make them a reality across the continent. Watch this space.

For more information about Responsive PHC, please contact Emily Lawrence, Senior Manager Research, Evidence and Learning, at emily.lawrence@villagereach.org

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