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Empowering Nigeria’s Health System Through Public-Private Collaboration

The Federal Government has underscored the critical role of partnering with the private sector in fortifying the nation’s health system, ultimately steering Nigeria toward the achievement of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

At the 2023 Annual Future of Health Conference, organized by Nigeria Health Watch and held in Lagos last week, Dr. Salma Ibrahim Anas, the Special Adviser to the President on Health, emphasized the government’s substantial investment in the health sector. However, Dr. Anas stressed that active involvement from the private sector is essential to ensure comprehensive health coverage and sustainability, fostering national growth, development, and prosperity.

The Imperative of Resilient Health Systems

Dr. Anas asserted that achieving the health-related SDGs, particularly the overarching goal of “health for all” underpinned by UHC and a continuum-of-care model that leaves no one behind, hinges on making the health sector resilient and more responsive to the needs of the population. President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration has prioritized stakeholder engagement, particularly with the private sector, to drive growth and development within the health sector.

With over 70 percent of private expenditure on healthcare as a share of the total health spending in Nigeria, Dr. Anas underscored the pivotal role that strategic partnerships and collaborations between the public and private sectors play in unlocking the vast potential and enhancing the overall health sector in the country.

By harnessing the existing opportunities within public-private partnerships, Nigeria can make substantial strides in achieving UHC, advancing healthcare delivery, ensuring financial protection, and creating a robust healthcare system accessible to all Nigerians. Dr. Anas acknowledged that this transformation will necessitate essential reforms, including the establishment of clear roles and responsibilities, robust governance frameworks, and transparent accountability mechanisms to safeguard the interests of both public and private stakeholders.

A Multisectoral Approach for Resilience

Dr. Anas maintained that building a resilient health system requires a multisectoral and multifaceted approach. Collaboration and synergy between the public and private sectors are vital in expediting progress toward this goal.

Through such collaboration, Nigeria can carve out the necessary policy space, enhance healthcare infrastructure, secure essential manpower, deploy cutting-edge technologies, ensure a consistent supply of pharmaceuticals, improve service delivery, mobilize additional resources, and promote equitable access to quality healthcare for all its citizens. These efforts align with the administration’s Renewed Hope mantra, emphasizing inclusivity and partnership, particularly between the public and private sectors, to foster national prosperity.

Commendations and Commitments

Dr. Muhammad Ali Pate, the Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, affirmed the Federal Government’s unwavering commitment to achieving UHC and health-related SDGs. Dr. Pate pledged to work in conjunction with organizations like Nigeria Health Watch to enhance the welfare, health, and well-being of the population. He highlighted the interconnectedness of health across various life stages, underscoring the need for concerted efforts across the spectrum.

Dr. Akin Abayomi, the Commissioner for Health in Lagos State, acknowledged the financing gap in the health sector and the need for private sector involvement. He advocated for a regulatory framework to guide the private sector’s contributions, recognizing the potential for significant healthcare development in partnership with the government.

Dr. Tinuola Akingbade, Managing Director and CEO of the Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria (PSHAN), commended the government’s initiatives and expressed the importance of convening and mobilizing the private sector in healthcare efforts.

Leveraging Private Sector Innovations

Dr. Tolupe Adewole, Managing Director of NSIA Advanced Medical Services, highlighted the transformative impact of private sector mobilization. He cited the expansion of cancer treatment facilities and NSIA’s collaboration with government-owned hospitals, thus facilitating more accessible care and contributing to the goal of UHC.

In closing, Dr. Jide Idris, former Commissioner for Health in Lagos State, stressed the necessity of creating an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive and support healthcare advancement.

Vivianne Ihekweazu, the Managing Director of Nigeria Health Watch, noted that private health providers play an integral role in healthcare delivery, especially for vulnerable populations. Leveraging the private sector, according to Ihekweazu, is essential for enhancing access to quality healthcare and aligning with the goal of UHC.

As private sector involvement in healthcare expands, it opens doors for innovative solutions, investments, and expertise, bolstering Nigeria’s pursuit of comprehensive healthcare coverage and the realization of health-related SDGs. This integration promises to transform the nation’s health system and reduce the “brain drain” of healthcare professionals, propelling Nigeria toward a future of universal health coverage and improved healthcare outcomes.

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