Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the Regional Director for the World Health Organisation (WHO) for Africa, has said that Africans needed to strengthen their health systems in order to eradicate basic health diseases and achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

She said this when she delivered the keynote address at the opening of the 2018 Annual Health Summit of the Ministry of Health and partners held in Accra on Monday.

Dr Moeti encouraged all not only to go back and build on their Primary Health Care, but to optimize innovations and leverage technologies to find new ways of delivering services and financing the health sector.

The Summit which was on the theme: “Achieving Universal Health Coverage-Using Innovative Approaches”, brought together all sector players as well as health partners to review the Programme of Work for the previous year and plan for the way forward to address any identified gaps and challenges.

Dr Moeti said achieving the UHC through innovative health system approaches was very pertinent at improving the performance of the health sector, since it would give equal access to quality health services, eliminating facing financial hardships.

To develop a framework for action to assist countries, Dr Moeti said oversight and coordination mechanisms and instruments such as policies, plans and laws must be developed, implemented and enforced.

She encouraged the health sector to ensure sustainable, equitable and efficient funding mechanism, so that people could have access to health services needed, and these must also include preventive and essential surgical services, which required additional emphasis in some countries.

Dr Moeti said, skilled health workers such as nurses, midwives, doctors, anesthetists, and more must also be available in adequate numbers and equitably distributed in countries.

“We see that health workers are not well distributed; most are in urban areas; this undermines the ability to ensure equitable access to health services and requires specific actions to achieve balance”, she said.

She stressed on the need for quality disaggregated data and information to inform policy and decision making on who would benefit from health services, on the status of financial protection and also on areas that needed strengthening.

She again noted that since implementation and service delivery, occurred at the district and community health systems, there must be strong stimulation to empower individuals and households to take charge of their own health.

Dr Moeti praised Ghana for forging ahead some innovative approaches, citing that the free maternal health care, which ensured all women had access to maternal health services, had saved the many lives for years now.

She also mentioned digitalisation system to improve data, which would also address the issue of the Maternal and Child Health Record Book, which linked the health records of a mother to her child, from pregnancy until the child is live, and the implementation of “Pregnancy Schools” to complement client education at the routine Antenatal Care.

She said this would foster follow up visits during pregnancy and after delivery and this had facilitated health services delivery, improved equity, and brought better value in Ghana.

She commended the government’s initiative to increase access to Essential Medicines and Medical products by removing the 17.5 per cent Value Added Tax on selected imported pharmaceutical products in order to reduce their prices, to ensure accessibility and affordability.

Dr Moeti stated that since the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) covered 95 per cent of health conditions and was funded mainly by the National Health Insurance Levy (NHIL), the health sector must develop more great innovation for financing health.

She encouraged all to strengthen governance for health, because it contributed to efficiencies in the Health sector that were critical to attaining UHC.

Mr Niyi Ojuolape, the UNFPA Representative to Ghana, representing the health partners, expressed satisfaction at the health sector achievements so far, and renewed the commitment and support of all partners towards the country’s achievement of UHC.

He mentioned some key successes as the government’s debt repayment to health sector, particularly to the NHIS service providers, saying these efforts should smoothen the trajectory towards the achievement of the UHC.

Mr Ojuolape said there were several unfinished agenda as there existed challenges and inadequacies in the health system and delivery, mentioning gaps in areas such as Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health and Family Planning services, as well as Early Childhood education including good nutrition.

GNA