Health ministry teams gather in South Africa for regional workshop

November 27, 2012 — In Rwanda, health officials would like to reduce childhood stunting. In Zambia, there’s an interest in improving the quality of service in provincial hospitals. Other African nations hope for further reductions in maternal and neonatal mortality.

These were just a few of the topics discussed in early November as top health ministry leaders from six African countries met for a regional workshop aimed at developing strategies for dealing with complex health problems. The five-day workshop—held in South Africa and led by senior faculty from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)—is a key part of the Ministerial Leadership in Health (MLIH) Program, a joint venture of the two schools supported by the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation.

Health ministry teams from six African countries met in South Africa for a workshop led by HSPH and HKS faculty.

Launched in June 2012, the MLIH Program aims to enhance the effectiveness of current ministers of health in order to help strengthen health systems and to improve service delivery and health outcomes in developing and emerging economies.

The workshop drew members of leadership teams from Liberia, Mozambique, Nigeria,
Rwanda, South Africa, and Zambia. Each team worked with Harvard faculty to develop implementation plans specific to their country’s priorities. As Ugo Ukoli, Director of Maternal and Child Health Programs in the Nigerian Federal Government, put it, “The workshop helped drill down to the essentials and prioritize next steps. Our Minister has established the goal of saving 1 million additional lives per year by enhancing program effectiveness. Through this process we have been able to envision pathways for accomplishing that goal.”

“The teams tackled the challenge with real commitment,” said MLIH Executive Director Michael Sinclair. Their hard work, he added, “makes prospects bright for real breakthroughs in strengthening health systems in participating countries.”

Following the workshop, Harvard faculty, together with regional and local partners, will provide further support to help each team successfully implement its plans. Ministers of health from each country that participated in the workshop will report on progress at the June 2013 Harvard Health Leaders’ Forum, a high-level roundtable held each year as part of MLIH.

–Karen Feldscher

photo: Philip Schedler