Comprising 15% of the global population, Africa has historically borne a disproportionate 25% share of the global disease burden. But with only 2% of the world’s research output generated locally, Africa’s knowledge production has not kept pace with the significant healthcare challenges it faces[i].
Cynthia Makarutse, Content Lead for the Africa Health Conference, believes that this manifests in a vicious cycle – a shortage of senior researchers and inadequate research infrastructures mean that junior researchers struggle to upskill, enter research progression pathways, and find sustainable careers, so the problem perpetuates.
Coupled with this, a recent study shows that the standard of medical education in most universities in Africa has worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This, potentially exacerbating the already dire shortage of doctors and other HCW on a continent which must provide healthcare for about 1.4 billion people and 25% of the global disease.[ii]
Makarutse believes that one of the most important solutions to mitigate the HCW shortfall in Africa is to implement an urgent increase in training capacity at multiple levels.
“Various studies reveal that complying with recommended target HCW ratios will result in improved patient outcomes and efficiencies in Africa’s health systems”, she adds.
The largest medical conference event on the continent, Africa Health is committed to building sustainable health systems on the continent. The annual event will this year again also choose a local charity organisation who will benefit from funds raised from the conference itself.
Makarutse explains that they are working on the Africa Health Medical Research Grant, which will for the first time be awarded at this year’s gathering.
“We have invited medical faculties from across Africa to submit cutting-edge research papers for consideration. A panel of experts will choose the best three, who will be invited to present these papers at our event in October. The winning faculty will receive a cash prize which we hope will go some way towards ensuring sustainability in medical academia and training in Africa.”
The largest medical conference event on the continent, Africa Health has provided an essential platform for health professionals to come together to conduct healthcare business on the continent. This year’s event sees a return to in-person symposia and will take place at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Johannesburg from the 26th – 28th October.
At the last in-person Africa Health event in 2019, a sum of R605,000 was gifted to the Reach for a Dream Foundation, who inspire hope and help children fight life-threatening illnesses.
Previous event charity beneficiaries and recipients include The Rural Doctors Association of Southern Africa (RuDASA), Just Footprints Foundation (JFF), and the CHOC Childhood Cancer Foundation.
“Placed in the hands of Africa’s medical training facilities, these funds could accelerate solutions for some of the continent’s most pressing concerns – such as research capacity and an escalation of HCW training,” she concludes.