Ministry Advocates Collaborative Innovation To Tackle ECOWAS’ Health Challenges

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Amidst the formidable challenges faced by public health in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) region, the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has underscored the immense opportunity for collaboration, innovation and collective action.

Director of public health in the Federal Ministry, Dr. Anyaike Chukwuma expressed this perspective at a workshop for directors of national public health institutes (NPHIs) in West Africa held in Abuja.

The establishment of the ECOWAS Regional Centre of Disease Surveillance and Control, following the 2014-2016 Ebola Virus Disease outbreak, marked a pivotal moment for the region. This initiative aimed to create a network of National Public Health Institutions to bolster countries’ capacities in preventing, detecting and effectively responding to major public health threats.

Chukwuma acknowledged the complexity of environmental degradation and its widespread impacts, emphasising the importance of recognising and harnessing the potential inherent in collaborative efforts towards sustainable solutions. Despite the diverse public health challenges faced by the region, from infectious and non-communicable diseases to environmental health threats, he highlighted the power of solidarity and cooperation, particularly evident during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The director emphasised Nigeria’s four-point agenda, focusing on improving leadership and governance, population health outcomes, unlocking the health sector’s value chain and enhancing health security for all Nigerians. Local production of health products, including diagnostics, medicines and vaccines, is considered a crucial step towards ensuring ownership and sustainability of health interventions in Africa.

Directors of NPHIs were recognised for their critical role in guiding nations through turbulent times and steering towards a healthier, more resilient future. These institutes serve as the cornerstone of public health surveillance, research and response, providing evidence-based guidance to policymakers, healthcare professionals and the public.

The annual meeting, which brings together representatives from 14 West African countries and organisations like Africa CDC, US CDC, and IANPHI, serves as a forum for fostering collaboration, forging partnerships and catalysing innovation. Chukwuma urged collective expertise and resources to tackle pressing health challenges, encompassing emerging infectious diseases and the growing burden of non-communicable diseases.

As they embark on this collaborative journey, Chukwuma encouraged a recommitment to the principles of equity, inclusivity and solidarity. He stressed the need to ensure that public health advancements benefit all segments of society, especially the most vulnerable. Additionally, he urged the harnessing of science, technology and innovation to build a healthier, more prosperous future for all.

The workshop signifies a collective effort to strengthen NPHIs in West Africa, with a focus on combating health threats like the COVID-19 pandemic. The outcomes aim to expedite NPHI development in the region, supported by entities like WAHO and Africa CDC, as representatives strategise and exchange best practices to overcome shared health challenges.

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