The stage is almost set for the second edition of the National Health Dialogue, a platform that brings together, citizens and stakeholders for a lively debate on issues in the Nigerian health sector.
The two-day dialogue session opens daily between Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:30 a.m. at the Nixon Luxury Hotel in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.
With the theme “Universal Health Coverage (UHC) – The role of State and Non-State Actors in Healthcare funding and support,” there will be discussions on providing better, equitable and affordable health options for Africa’s most populous nation.
The event is organised by PREMIUM TIMES, Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), the Project for Advocacy in Child and Family Health, PACFaH@Scale, the Project Pink Blue and the Nigerian Governor’s Forum (NGF).
The conference will bring together health practitioners and advocates as well as political, religious and traditional leaders; the public and private sector and the media.
They will discuss the most important health challenges affecting the health sector and co-create home-grown solutions.
Ahead of the event, PREMIUM TIMES presents six things participants should expect from the dialogue.
Reminding government of previous commitments and why it should prioritise health
The dialogue intends to raise questions on implications of not positioning health financing as an investment.
Participants will have an opportunity to ask critical questions on various government programmes, policies, laws, and structures with regards to health funding and service delivery.
The political reality in Nigeria over the years is that government often prioritise investments that offer more immediate returns.
Over N76 trillion has been allotted in the annual budgets of the different tiers of government in the two decades of uninterrupted democracy in Nigeria but the paltry allocations for health has never been enough to address health challenges of the country’s population.
Policies, programmes, and laws initiated should have been enough to change the trajectory of the health sector but for their uncoordinated implementation and corruption that even predate this era.
Two years into the Fourth Republic, Nigeria hosted the 2001 conference now known as “the Abuja Declaration,” where African leaders pledged at least 15 per cent of their annual budgets to the health sector.
Nigeria has continued to be a serial defaulter of this agreement even in the face of escalating costs.
Government has traditionally been happy to sign policy documents and make sensational commitments without backing them with proper implementation.
About 80 per cent of deaths in rural communities across Nigeria are due to poor implementation of Primary Healthcare policies, health experts say.
Raising citizen’s consciousness to demand accountability
“We must find ways to arm the citizens with the right information so that they can lead the demand for better health care and accountability,” Dale Ogunbayo, a panelist said ahead of the event.
Mr Ogunbayo, the managing director of Cumbamed Associate Ltd, said the dialogue will equip participants with data, facts, and knowledge that will broaden their consciousness to critical issues affecting the health sector.
“For now, the demand has been from CSOs, health professionals and advocates. We need to push it further so it will be the citizens making these demands.
“The health sector needs to demonstrate the efficiency and transparency in its expenditure and policy implementation.
“Nigerians should be able to trace the ineffectiveness of the PHCs around them to the budgetary allocations and policies initiated by the government”, he explained.
Seven fully packaged panels
Participants will be locked in seven engaging panel discussions for the two days the event will hold.
These include discussion on cancer treatment; interrogating challenges and prospects of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) in the formal sector; and exploring how to engage the informal sector for maximum performance in health insurance.
The curtain will be drawn on the first day at about 5:00 p.m. when the three aforementioned issues must have been robustly discussed by the panelists and participants.
The second day promises four technical panels including a special expert session.
Financing UHC in Africa – Nigeria’s comparative experience; Effective State-level Health Insurance initiatives – the challenges and prospects; UHC- The Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHPCF) as a pillar for health resources and quality Primary Health care; Gendering Access to Healthcare in Nigeria.
Government officials, stakeholders to lookout for
Organisers carefully selected government stakeholders in the area of health financing for the event.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and health minister Osagie Ehanire are the special guests.
The Emir of Gombe, Abubakar Shehu-Abubakar is expected to represent religious and traditional bodies.
Faisal Shuaib, Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) will account for PHC policies.
Muhammed Sambo, Executive Secretary, National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS); Lydia Dsane-Selby, Executive Secretary of Ghana’s health scheme (NHIA); and Banji Filani – Technical Director, Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) will lead discussions on health financing.
Dogo Mohammed, a former NHIS executive secretary, will deliver a keynote speech to set the dialogue in motion.
Hundreds of health sector players from various parts of Africa will discuss critical issues affecting Nigeria’s health sector at the event.
Demand for more commitment
With a host of government officials gracing the event, it is expected that conversations will spur them into making new commitments and recommitting to the aspirations for a better health deal.
These commitments will further serve as accountability to check for the government at all levels in the health sector.
Opportunity to Network
With over 500 health actors converging in Abuja from across Nigeria and Africa, the two-day event is another opportunity for participants to network and partner.
“I am hoping to meet several experts from different fields in health”, Cynthia Anaele, a participant told PREMIUM TIMES ahead of the event.
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