Neglected Issues Relating to African Health Systems: An Incentive for Reform
Inequalities in access to and quality of health services result in poorer health for disadvantaged groups. In West Africa, poor access to health care has been linked to increased mortality of children under five.
Several issues that affect access to and quality of health care for the poor and vulnerable in West Africa are neglected because of systemic "blind spots" - issues that are not covered by regular investigative protocols, are not questioned because they are part of well-established routines, or conflict with other interests. They include practices that don't comply with official standards, bottlenecks within healthcare organizations, and shortcomings in implementing healthcare policies in the field.
Even when these issues are discussed, the lack of reliable data makes it difficult to propose and implement workable solutions. These neglected issues need to be properly documented, shared, and discussed publicly to foster reform that will improve the quality of health care, especially for the most vulnerable.
Funding will support six research projects on issues in the health care system that affect access to and quality of care. Results will then link to reform efforts. Researchers will tackle key issues that have direct implications on the quality of care available to vulnerable populations, including daily service delivery, women's health, decentralization, and sustainability. Research will be undertaken in Niger to build a comprehensive picture of what is needed to reform a national health system. Local health professionals and public health officials will participate in studies and provide an insider's perspective on how the system is actually functioning.
The project will strengthen the skills of West African researchers in the social anthropology of health, promote mentoring of young African researchers, and improve the quality of empirical social sciences research conducted in Africa. It will also provide researchers, health care professionals, and community activists with a forum for discussion and will bring these issues to the attention of public health officials and health professionals.
Several training activities involving students, PhD students and health care workers will be incorporated in the ongoing work. Conferences will be held at local, district and national levels to share the results of the six research projects. Results will also be released internationally to francophone and anglophone scientific and academic communities, and to the media through reports, articles, and other publications.