Expert Insight

From Attention to Action on Health Systems: Driving Accountability for PHC in the Wake of COVID-19

Thank you to all who attended “From Attention to Action on Health Systems: Driving Accountability for PHC in the Wake of COVID-19” at AHAIC2021! PHCPI – in partnership with the Allies Improving PHC – was thrilled to host this timely session exploring ways in-country advocates can turn global attention on health care delivery to action. If you weren’t able to join us, you can watch the recording here.

Shabir Moosa opened the session, and panelists – Esther Agbon, Yacine Djibo, Youssoupha Ndiaye, and Belinda Nimako – equipped the audience with practical strategies for strengthening PHC advocacy during COVID response and recovery.

Key lessons that emerged from the session were:

  • Collaboration Drives Change. According to Public Health Physician Belinda Nimako, Ghana’s COVID response has been closely linked to PHC, from surveillance to contact tracing and more. However, advocates still play an important role in working together to improve the quality of primary health care across the country. Dr. Nimako shared that creating partnerships with a diverse set of allies across sectors has been key to effective primary health care advocacy. Often, decision-makers have a number of competing priorities and political goals – making the case for PHC from multiple perspectives was invaluable in influencing those holding the purse strings.
  • Communities Know Best. As the Director for Planning, Research and Statistics at the Ministry of Health and Social Action in Senegal, Youssoupha Ndiaye recognized PHC’s ability to treat people in the community that they live, rather than their wealth or status. COVID-19 showed Dr. Ndiaye that Senegal was under-utilizing the potential of the community and local initiatives to shape high-quality PHC, underscoring the need to engage communities in advocacy and decision-making. Dr. Ndiaye identified a number of ways PHC will continue to be critical, including to support vaccine distribution and make telehealth services available for people in need. Crucially, communities that receive those services need a seat at the table alongside other cross-sector stakeholders.
  • Capacity-building is Key. Speak Up Africa’s advocacy approach is oriented around three main pillars: (1) Capacity-building of partners and stakeholders; (2) Deepening existing partnerships and identifying new ones; and (3) Codifying resource mobilization efforts for sustainable change. The organization’s Founder and President, Yacine Djibo, shared that these elements have been instrumental for successful health advocacy efforts amid COVID-19 in Senegal and across West Africa. Equipping African-led civil society organizations with the right tools – including training, technology and more – allows these local partners to effectively advocate for sustained health funding and hold governments accountable for strong PHC.
  • Credibility Depends on Quality Data. At Evidence 4 Action MamaYe (E4A), Esther Agbon leverages strong evidence on health systems for engaging effectively with policymakers. While the Nigerian government has recently increased resources to the health system – including for PHC – Agbon emphasized that advocates have an important opportunity to sustain these resources beyond the pandemic. To ensure sufficient funds are allocated to PHC, advocates must build credibility with governments using quality data on health needs and system gaps. Even after a budget is successfully negotiated, constant monitoring of the results ensures people actually receive the care they need.

Stay tuned for more important PHC advocacy lessons from our Allies Improving PHC! Interested in joining us to drive collective action on high-quality PHC around the world? Fill out the survey here.