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MDG’s and Consumers: Reinforce National Health Services, Infrastructure and Workforce

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How important is good health to prosperity? How important is good health to productivity?  Have you had the time to ask yourself whether in the absence of good health it is possible to be prosperous and productive? If you haven’t, I hope the material will prod your thought on the subject.

As you consider the above questions, let me again ask: When was the last time you visited a health facility in Monrovia? When I say “visit,” I don’t mean when you stopover to see a patient, or to see a friend. I mean, when was the last time you sought medical attention at a health facility in Monrovia.  If you did seek medical attention recently, what was your experience?  If you haven’t, then read on and listen. If you did, perhaps you may have a word or two to add to this piece. 

A friend visited few medical centers in Monrovia recently, and her experience underscores the need for a quick check on the Nation’s health services, health infrastructure and health professionals in the workforce. We know that when health services are lagging, people (Consumers) who get ill cannot receive the needed services to recuperate. And if one person gets ill (pray that the illnesses is not contagious) and doesn’t get the immediate and appropriate services, one human resources is going down the drain.

Aside fulfilling the three Millennium Development Goals on health – reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, and combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases – let’s recognize that health is an important component to productivity! When we are ill, we cannot function properly at home, or at work. Do you doubt that? When was the last time you had severe headache, or running stomach, or experienced excruciating pain, but could still pay full attention to your children, or your spouse, or successfully complete work at the office? When you are feeling ill, or are truthfully ill, do you still burst with energy or think logically? Now, I hope you understand why I emphasized the importance of good health to creativity and being productive in both your personal and professional life! That’s simply because I have experienced the wrath of ill-heath many times in my life.

We don’t need the MDGs to illustrate the importance of good health to the eradication of poverty, and in promoting sustainable development. Health is both a resource for, as well as an outcome of, sustainable development. We cannot achieve sustainable development in the presence of increasing illness and poverty. Additionally, the health of a population cannot improved or be maintained without a responsive health system.  And a responsive health system is one that has sufficient and available health practitioners and specialists in diverse fields to meet the needs of patients, and ample medical equipment to conduct series of medical test. This is necessary because, poor health system impedes poverty alleviation and economic development.

Some of you will want to know what my friend’s experience was – just what is it that prompted this long article? Well, I will summarize my friend’s experience – what prompted this lecture on health.

My friend has been experiencing some medical problems. Over the course of four months, she visited several [proper- MD) doctors. During each of these visits, she was examined, and the diagnosis, and suggested treatments were profoundly diverse.

What puzzled my friend was that, during another rounds of visits recently, she couldn’t get the ultrasound exam she needed to do at the time it was requested, simply because at three extensively different health facilities, the ultrasound machines were down. Aside the medical machines being down, she also observed that there were fewer technicians with the skills to operate most of the medical equipment. That means, the few technicians must rotate – one technician operates medical equipment at over five pentagonic health centers/hospitals in the city.  Another puzzling issue is that to have the medical equipment that have broken down repaired,  technicians must come from outside of Liberia, to be specific, from Senegal to repair them.  Isn’t that a cause for worry!!

Should we import technicians from across our borders to repair our medical equipment? Should we have a shortage of medical equipment? Is the government aware of the shortages of medical equipment and staff, or is someone playing on the figures and the budget allotted to the health sector?

In the face of high prevalence of debilitating illnesses and poverty, it is time that scholarships are provided to persons who have demonstrated interest in various health disciplines.  To put it succinctly, U.S Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said, “Healthcare reform cannot happen without an adequate supply of well-trained, well-distributed providers. We are targeting investments in primary care, nursing, faculty development, and equipment purchases that will shore up the workforce as we prepare for reform.”

To have fewer specialists or facilities is to have monopoly over a sector. And where there’s monopoly, we see lackadaisical behaviors, attitudes, arrogance, and overall pomposity. As market strategies have taught us, when the field is opened and free, we will have competition for demonstration of competence.

To ensure that the health professions workforce is distributed geographically, there is a need to support health training efforts across the educational spectrum. Government could also use various payment incentives to help encourage providers to practice in underserved areas. The Ministry of Health could also provide support to medical, nursing, and other health professional schools to improve specialty and geographic distribution and to encourage innovation in the education and training of the health professions workforce.

Among other steps to improve the health sector is the need to regularly review medical student intakes; coordinate initiatives for medical training, Implementation of a program for the development of specialist leadership and co-ordination of recruitment functions across District Health Boards.  Additionally, the purchase of large number of medical equipment for various functions should be a priority.

These efforts and programs are necessary if our society is to improve its health sector and also meet the Millennium Development Goals.   Let us not forget that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are inter-dependent. All of the MDG influence health and health also influences all of the MDGs in every society. For example, when children are healthy, they can learn and adults can also earn. We cannot have gender (male and female) equality in the absence of good health. If we must reduce poverty, hunger and environmental degradation, we must keep at the back of our minds that these can only be achieved through good health, and they also influence better health.

Permit me to conclude with a statement that concisely highlights the importance of health to sustainable development. Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General Emeritus, WHO said, “Healthy life is an outcome of sustainable development, as well as a powerful and undervalued means of achieving it. We need to see health both as a precious asset in itself, and as a means of stimulating economic growth and reducing poverty.”

Do you agree that better health is a means of stimulating economic growth and reducing poverty?

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