The Nation (Nairobi)

9 September 2009

Africa: WHO Decries Health Threat

Nairobi — The World Health Organisation has decried the increasing health threats in Africa, fuelled by an ever widening gap between policy and implementation.

Dr David Okello, WHO country representative, on Wednesday said numerous past documents on health remain unimplemented even as the continent faces health-related problems.

Speaking at the Inter Continental Hotel, Nairobi during a media briefing on the upcoming global health conference to be held in Nairobi, Dr Okello said it was time to identify ways of speeding the implementation process instead of coming up with new policy documents.

"For far too long, we have developed health guidelines that end up not being fully implemented. I think the conference will come up with how to address this challenge," he said.

The 7th Global Conference on Health Promotion will for the first time be hosted in the African continent. It will be held at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre between 26th-30th, October and will feature 450 invited participants.

The theme of the conference is: Promoting Health and Development: Closing the Implementation Gap.

Public Health and Sanitation Assistant minister Dr James Gesami called on African diplomats based in Nairobi to push for their countries' full participation.

"This is an opportunity for us to harness political leadership in the promotion of health issues in the country and beyond," Dr Gesami said.

"Over the years, health promotion has accumulated a large body of evidence and experience on what works. Today, the challenge has moved from developing the evidence for health promotion interventions to meeting the need for health promotion and closing the implementation gap."

The conference, following a similar one in Bangkok, Thailand, in 2005 comes at a time when there is need to address two emerging patterns in the global burden of disease that are not specifically covered by the existing health promotion goals.

These are: the emergence of non-communicable disease, injury and mental disorders; and the issue of inequities in the distribution of health and of the wider social, economic, political and environmental determinants of health.

"Our main challenge has been lack of financial and human resource needed to effect meaningful health promotion," said Dr Gesami, noting that preventive health promotion is the only way to efficiently utilise the limited health financing in the country.

During the October forum, a special day has been set aside to showcase African success stories in the field of health promotion.

"We need to showcase exemplary cases in Africa that can be emulated elsewhere. Patient care is an example of what Africa can offer to the rest of the world," said director of Public Health Shanaz Sharif.

In an effort to showcase health promotion activities and achievements in the region, a publication, The Effectiveness of Health Promotion in Africa, will be launched on the fourth day of the conference.

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