Earlier this week, the Obama Administration announced that it would be providing $130 million in new funding to African Medical Schools. Although the money will technically be channeled through PEPFAR it is hard to say that this is an HIV-specific health intervention. So – in theory – these investments will help train (hopefully) new medical professionals that will (hopefully) be hired to work on more than (hopefully) just implementing PEPFAR related projects. Depending on how this gets rolled out, this might therefore represent a true health system strengthening intervention. This is good news, as until now I have had a hard time pointing to many good examples.
While this commitment is very admirable, it is also worth pointing out that it is not very much money. The town of Newton, Massachusetts, where I used to live (and where I used to pay property taxes!), spent more than this renovating one of the local high schools.
If you spread out this money over half a dozen or so countries and over a few years it means that it won’t translate into all that much money, in particular where the challenges to scaling up medical education are so great. It will require new teachers, new classrooms, new teaching infrastructure, and many other investments. This of course, also says nothing about who will pay the salaries of these newly minted medical professionals once they graduate from medical school.
That said, this seems like a really good step in the right direction. Too bad it has taken so many years for the donor community to start to really address what they have been talking about for so long – taking steps to strengthen health systems.
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