‘More Action, Less Talk’

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Deputy Health Minister for Health Services Dr. Francis Kateh is rallying his colleagues, health stakeholders in the West African sub-region, to do away with too much talking and get involved in more action.

According to Dr. Kateh, it is the responsibility of regional health stakeholders to bring together all the necessary positive responses needed for collective transparency and accountability in the sector.

The Deputy Health Minister’s assertions were part of his remarks delivered yesterday during the formal opening of the Second ECOWAS Forum on Good Practices in Health. The two-day conference is taking place in the historical Ivoirian city of Grand Bassam, which is purported to have some links to present day Grand Bassa County in Liberia, just a few hundred miles across the border.

Dr. Kateh was representing Health Minister Dr. Bernice Dahn, who is the Head of Health Ministers of ECOWAS by virtue of Liberia being the present Chair of ECOWAS.

In his remarks, Dr. Kateh commended authorities of the West African Health Organization (WAHO) for what he termed as “this splendid assurance of best practices through the support of our partners.”

“Today marks for me a significant day in looking at sustainability for our region, because the Forum for which we are here is concerned about the greatest asset towards sustenance of our region, and that is maternal and adolescent health,” he stated.

Dr. Kateh was confident that health stakeholders can make gains if they are willing to listen to the affected and motivate their “soldiers” in the field to combat whatever they are trying to contain.

“Remember, we defeated Ebola in the region by listening, planning and implementing with the community, and not without the community. Hence, literacy doesn’t equate to ignorance; what is critical is trust. Therefore as partners, health workers and policymakers, it is incumbent upon us to gain the trust of those we are designing programs for. They need to be part of the process so that they can become part of the ownership for better implementation,” he stressed.

He further reminded his audience that ‘best practices’ can be achieved by being creative, innovative and thinking outside of the box and taking into consideration the localized, cultural context.

He called on all the participants to learn and listen to implementable positive attributes by involving the affected groups – that way, they would move from “much talk but no action to much action but little talk.”

In closing, Dr Kateh thanked the Ivorian authorities for their show of support to Liberia during Ebola. He also thanked WAHO for the partnership and opportunity to make sure that the health needs of people in the region are met.

Speaking earlier, the Director-General of WAHO, Dr. Xavier Crespin, stated that the socioeconomic development of the region and the regional integration advocated by ECOWAS’ Founding Fathers largely hinge on an essential pillar— a healthy population.

“Health depends largely on how well our health systems are performing and as such they should be given special attention to be able to prevent disease, restore health and contribute towards a state of complete well-being for all ECOWAS citizens,” he said.

Dr. Crespin said the purpose of the Forum is to promote and disseminate good practices in health for enhanced efficiency of priority programs, including promoting the culture of sharing experiences. Mobilizing and aligning all key stakeholders with regional and national priorities, stimulating/leveraging change for appropriate reforms in health systems and monitoring and evaluating the progress made by member countries in the replication and scaling up of good practices in health are other objectives of the Forum.

Relative to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Forum is being held under the theme, “Promoting Innovations in Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health.”

Though the Forum has sub-themes, including Institutional Reforms, Human Resources for Health, Health Technology and Knowledge Translation and Use of Evidence-based Data in Policies and Programs, it is focusing on reproductive health, a topical issue for countries in light of the challenges in the region in terms of maternal, newborn, adolescent and young morbidity and mortality, which still remains high.

“I am confident that this Forum will enable all actors to exchange on practices related to each of the sub-themes with a view of adapting, replicating, and scaling them,” the WAHO DG said.

The Deputy Mayor of Grand Bassam welcomed the delegations to his city by wishing them a warm stay and the hope that the discussions will produce good results for the region.

For his part, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Representative in Côte d’Ivoire, Dr. Seydou Coulibaly, said an analysis of health results in the region indicates that “there is a need to do more for mothers and sisters,” and that WHO is very keen on results from the Forum.

Formally declaring the two-day Forum open, the representative of the Ivorian Minister of Health indicated that the Forum was designed to help them identify best practices, adding: “In spite of the progress made, maternal mortality is still a very big problem in our region.”

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