Health Ministers Commit to Advancing Urban Health and Implementation Research

January 31, 2019

As previously featured in our newsletter, urbanization poses an increasingly important challenge to health and development among countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Therefore, it was no surprise that “Governance and Equity-oriented Policies for Urban Health” emerged as a major theme of the East Central Southern Africa Health Community’s Best Practices Forum (ECSA-HC BPF) in June of 2018. HEARD partners who form part of the Implementation Science Collaboration on Urban Health in East Africa took advantage of the ECSA-HC BPF to formally launch their Three Country Urban Nutrition Assessment and solicit feedback from stakeholders. Dialogue from the Forum culminated in recommendations which were eventually posed to the Health Ministers at the ECSA Health Ministers Conference (ECSA-HMC) for their consideration.

While the ECSA-HMC is not meant to be a scientific conference like the ECSA-HC BPF, it presents an opportunity to further engage the Ministers in scientific and technical discussion on priority themes. In November 2018, HEARD was pleased to support collaborator, Dr. Daniel Okello Ayen from the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), to travel to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe to address the Ministers at the ECSA-HMC on regional challenges related to urbanization, why action is needed and outlined observations learned while serving as Director Public Health and Environment for KCCA. Dr. Okello explained that inequities in health are systematic and socially produced and therefore modifiable and warns that progress may mask stark inequities within populations. 

Ultimately, the Ministers agreed that a regional commitment was in order. One of the five resolutions coming out of the ECSA-HMC underscored the need to confront urban health challenges and urged member states to leverage the value of implementation research as an integral part of the process. See below for an excerpt from the resolution (Full resolution can be found here):

  • Establish or strengthen formal frameworks for multi-sectoral engagements to improve delivery of urban health services.
  • Embed implementation research into urban health policy and program to inform ongoing decision making.
  • Mainstream health equity aspects in all sectors’ policies and plans and strengthen urban health systems to respond to the dynamics and specific needs of urban populations.

Regional resolutions are key tools for influencing national policy and accountability within member states and invites a broader network of stakeholders to work together toward realization of the resolution objectives. HEARD partners anticipate reinforcing this regional commitment with continued consultation and dialogue at the next Best Practices Forum which brings the opportunity to validate and share findings from the Three Country Urban Nutrition Assessment.