AMREF in the Spotlight
September is always an exciting time in New York City. The world’s leaders arrive for the United Nations General Assembly and the Clinton Global Initiative is in full swing with some of the most innovative thinking from around the globe converging for three days. In what has come to be known around here as ‘MDG week’, there is a lot of reflection from NGOs, global leaders and private partners as to how much progress we’re making towards the Millennium Development Goals and what needs to be done to push ahead more intensely to achieve those objectives in the remaining two years.
Of the many ‘MDG’ activities around town this past week, I was thrilled to be part of a panel hosted by one of our partners, Johnson & Johnson, entitled ‘Innovative Solutions on the Frontline: How Healthcare Workers Are Saving the Lives of Women and Children’. With colleagues from organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics, IntraHealth, Freedom from Hunger, mothers2mothers, Pro Mujer and Save the Children, we addressed some of the high impact solutions our respective organizations bring to the table to strengthen health systems and suppDr. Babatunde Osotimehin, ED, UNFPA; Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Ms. Ertharin Cousin, ED, UNWFP,ort frontline health workers in developing countries.
It was terrific to speak about our partnership with J&J in developing the managerial talent of senior health professionals, because I don’t think many people are aware of the essential link between leadership training and effective health care provision. I mean think about it. These professionals are totally comfortable delivering health services – that’s their life’s work. But when it comes to actually managing a large hospital for instance, these usually capable individuals are like fish out of water. Without proper managerial training, how can a health care professional be expected to ensure proper supply chain management of essential HIV drugs, or that staff are adequately supervised and motivated, timesheets and patient records well kept, that relevant information is linked to the Ministry of Health and above all, quality service is provided?
In tandem with the Anderson School of Management at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and J&J, AMREF created the Management Development Institute (MDI) program in Kenya to provide health professionals with the managerial skills to effectively run health programs and facilities. The MDI is delivered by instructors from UCLA, AMREF and by outstanding faculty from several African universities.
Jane Wathome, CEO Beacon of Hope, a community-based HIV care and treatment agency in Nairobi founded in 2002, is typical of MDI participants. In 2002, Beacon of Hope operated with two part time nurses and served about 120 clients per week. Overnight in 2008 her program grew ten-fold to fifteen full time staff serving about 1,200 clients per week. Jane was simply overwhelmed. However, after attending MDI and participating its mandatory year-long Community Health Improvement Project, Jane had reached a new level of expertise.
MDI Graduate - Jane Wathome
In her words, “because of the quality of information we learned from MDI, we have improved the quality of care to the point where we’ve become a referral center for other clinics in the area that have complex cases.”
Since 2006, there have been 665 graduates of MDI from 27 African countries.
The week before in Washington, DC at the annual Congressional Black Caucus conference AMREF had another opportunity to talk about our work. The US Congresswoman, Karen Bass, a strong supporter of global health and Africa, presented, ‘Africa Rising: A Continent of Opportunity.’ Divided into three forums: ‘Africa’s Growing Economy’, ‘Health Investments for Africa’s Future’ and ‘Emerging Threats to Political Stability’, the panel discussion spanned the entire day.
AMREF was honored to be the only NGO to address the health forum, represented by Dr Peter Ngatia, AMREF’s Nairobi-based Director of Capacity Building. Dr. Ngatia emphasized the need to invest in proven high impact solutions that result in less death, growing life expectancy and ultimately, ‘Africa rising.’ Of course Peter spoke to AMREF’s overall approach to health systems strengthening where we look at challenges holistically – not one-off quick fixes – but instead, a systemic approach to all elements that create a strong and effective health system.
This includes trained, motivated and compensated health workers, efficient governance, development of responsive health information systems, ensuring optimal supplies of provisions (especially drugs), a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation system and of course, solid leadership. Peter also highlighted AMREF’s ongoing battle cry – that we must invest in and support the development of skilled health workers if we want to realize our vision of lasting health change in Africa.
Moderator from USAID, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director, UNFPA; Congresswoman Barbara Lee; Ms. Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director, WFP; Dr. Peter Ngatia, Director of Capacity Building, AMREF
I have to say, what really impressed me about the day’s events was the level of enthusiasm, optimism and support for Africa rising! Participants and panelists alike were overwhelmingly positive in their assessments of Africa’s future and how much positive change has occurred on the continent in the last 10 years. Equally impressive was the commitment of the African Diaspora to not only continue to support their family and relatives in their home countries, but also to invest in businesses, the economy and health development organizations like AMREF all across the continent.
That African spirit of ‘when I pull myself up, I lift everyone else with me’ was pervasive the entire day through. And it was a beautiful thing…
Until next time, Lisa
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