Amidst the hoopla surrounding his first visit as President to Sub-Saharan Africa, President Obama took time away from his visits to castles, meetings with tribal leaders, and performances from dance troops to address the Ghanaian Parliament today. But before making his speech, he and Michelle stopped at a hospital in Accra to visit with pregnant women and children.
It was no coincidence that he chose a maternity ward to visit before his speech, during his address to Parliament he made it clear that the US will be adopting a new – and broader – strategy to address public health issues in Africa. While the big diseases like HIV got an honorable mention, Obama seems to really take the idea of supporting systems not just addressing single fashionable diseases to heart, or as he called it no more “confronting diseases in isolation“.
He even went so far to acknowledge that donor countries, via some of the single disease programs, are contributing to health worker shortages: “Yet because of incentives – often provided by donor nations – many African doctors and nurses understandably go overseas, or work for programs that focus on a single disease.” Denialism is dead.
While he stopped short of describing in detail how this new strategy operationally would be any different from the existing strategy – he tends to do that – or how he would get any changes to existing programs approved without any new funding – he is already on the hot seat for “slashing” HIV funding despite “increasing” commitments – he did stress a broader approach was on the way, which included investments in “public health systems that promote wellness, and focus on the health of mothers and children”.
For now I am a happy woman, and feel as though his visit has been a good one for global health. I think it is a “change” in the right direction – or “nsakrae” if my Twi dictionary serves me correctly.Share on Facebook