The health of citizens across the globe would be safeguarded to boost productivity and prosperity if the monies governments spend on public health emergencies would prior be invested in preventive health.
Dr Rebecca Martin, Director for Centre for Global Health of the United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, who recommended this, explained that the United States Government annually spent about $60 billion dollars towards addressing global public health emergencies or outbreaks.
However, it only invested $4.5 billion towards preventive health.
“So comparing a $60 billion dollar loss in economies and in deaths to a $4.5 billion investments annually; ( and that is for every individual in the world) it is important to note that prevention is much more efficient and cost effective than being able to respond to outbreaks, which costs a lot more money.
Dr Martin gave the suggestion when responding to questions at the telephonic Africa Health Forum, aimed at addressing global health security and protecting Africans.
The event connected media practitioners at the various US Missions in Africa who highlighted some major health issues confronting their citizens.
The forum was also created to engage Africans to put their ideas and energies together to resolve their own health challenges.
Dr Martin, therefore, urged African countries to prioritise preventive health and develop rapid response mechanisms to deal with public health emergencies.
She said only 30 per cent of the countries in the world had health infrastructure to respond to public health emergencies or outbreaks.
She noted that health security was a national security as it affected the economies of nations and called for the establishment of mobile laboratories so that health workers could move easily to centres of outbreaks for diagnostic test and institute preventive measures.
She said it required everybody’s involvement, including civil society organisations and international organisations, to address public health issues.
“You may have the best intervention by way of vaccine or medicine but it’s up to the community to take it, therefore, the engagement of the community is critical both in prevention and in emergency situations,” she explained.
Dr Martin said it was very important for implementors of any health intervention to talk to the community members, especially the key influencers, to make sure the people understood the information so that it did not disrupt cultures and traditions.
“There is the need for proper planning in terms of the communication component by working with the people before introducing any particular health intervention so that the targeted community would understand the value and cooperate,” she emphasised.
Dr Martin said the team work should extend to dealing with water and sanitation, floods, food shortages and security issues, as well as other national issues.
She stressed the importance of consumers having the right information on medication in order to make the right decision on their health.
Answering a question on the common practice of self-medication in Ghana, she advised people to report diseases to health centres so that there would be an opportunity for accurate diagnostic tests for effective treatment.
Consequently, she said, there was the need for key stakeholder engagements to educate the populace on public health issues.
Countries must share practices and experiences so that they could keep everybody safe, she said.
There are five Regional Disease Collaborative Centres in Kenya, Nigeria, Gabon, Egypt and Zambia and these centres are supposed to support countries to prepare and respond to health emergencies.
The US Missions have been organising telephonic conferences on topical issues in Africa, but this is the maiden one on health.