Humanise Health Stories For Greater Impact, APC Women Leader Urges Stakeholders

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Friendly smiling young doctor supporting older patient during visit
Friendly smiling young doctor supporting older patient during visit.

The national women leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Betta Edu has called upon stakeholders in the health sector to humanise their narratives in order to appeal to political leaders.

Edu made this statement during a health policy dialogue held in Abuja on Wednesday. The event, titled “Setting UHC and Health Security Priorities in the New Dispensation: Getting it Right from the Outset,” aimed to discuss Nigeria’s health policy priorities based on the recommendations of the Presidential Committee on Health Reform, as well as the citizens-led health agenda.

Edu emphasised the need to reshape stories in a way that captures the attention of political leaders. She stressed that highlighting the political gains in Health Policy Reform is crucial. Given that political leaders often juggle competing priorities from various sectors, the health sector must adopt a strategic approach.

A member of the Federal House of Representatives, Hon. Tanku Sununu acknowledged that Nigeria’s health sector struggles with low budget absorptive capacity, resulting in the inefficient use of allocated resources. Sununu emphasised the importance of addressing this challenge to improve the efficiency of health investments.

A senior health advisor at the Nigeria Governors Forum, Dr. Ahmed Abdulwahab pointed out that the scope of national health reforms in the country has been limited to the Federal level. He emphasised the necessity of considering the implementation of reforms at the sub-national level during the design phase to ensure their effectiveness.

Co-convener of the UHC2023 Forum, Dr. Garfa Alawode highlighted the need for increased investment in the health sector accompanied by enhanced accountability, transparency, answerability, and controllability in resource utilisation, policy implementation, and system performance. Alawode emphasised that accountability measures should be in place to ensure that all relevant organisations fulfill their responsibilities.

“To improve the health system, increased investment must be coupled with enhanced accountability, transparency, answerability (asking appropriate questions), and controllability (effecting desired changes),” Alawode explained. He stressed the importance of holding health MDAs (ministries, departments and agencies) and institutions accountable for their stewardship and other roles.

Alawode also emphasised the role of lawmakers, relevant MDAs, the media, and civil society in holding implementers accountable. He suggested enforcing legislation that mandates MDAs to annually publish information on resource utilisation, policy implementation, and system performance in finance and service provision. Furthermore, he proposed the establishment of a multisectoral ministerial committee on accountability responsible for reviewing reports published by MDAs and urged the National Assembly to act on annual audit reports received from health MDAs.

The UHC 2023 Forum, a coalition of various stakeholders including donor agencies, development partners and civil societies, aims to prioritise universal health coverage (UHC) in the political landscape of Nigeria. As the country approaches the general elections, the forum seeks to leverage this opportunity to bring UHC to the forefront. It aims to mobilise health policy advocates, the media, citizens and the political class to collaborate and bring about meaningful change in the health sector. The forum has partnered with Chatham House, a global policy think-tank, to raise the political profile of health in Nigeria and develop a “health manifesto” for adoption by major political parties in the country.

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