Investing in health is good business

Investing in health is good business

On Thursday during the launch of The African Medical and Research Foundation’s (AMREF) five-year business plan it was argued that the health sector should be seen as an investment with public and private partners actively involved. Speaking at the event, the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Welfare, Dr Lucy Nkya, said: “I’ve followed closely the discussion on how best public-private partnerships can work together to achieve lasting health campaigns in Tanzania.

And looking at AMREF’s interventions, although they complement government’s efforts in facilitating provision of health services to Tanzanians, they depend heavily on external donors.” The Deputy Minister elaborated that the way forward is private and public partnerships from within the country and stressed that tri sectoral partnerships amongst government, private sector and civil society is needed to pool resources to ensure effective and sustainable access to health services, especially for the marginalised and poorest people in remote areas.

The launch included a panel discussion and stakeholders shared their experiences on their contributions towards supporting the sector. From the media was Ms Joyce Mhaville, the Managing Director, ITV, Capital Television, Radio One and Capital Radio, who narrated to guests present how ITV got involved in the Breast Cancer Awareness campaign. The television was approached by members of the Medical Women’s Association of Tanzania (MEWATA) who wanted publicity so as to raise awareness and funds so that Tanzanian women could go for testing.

Ms Mhaville explained that she told the MEWATA members that the TV station would enter the agreement as partners and air the messages free of charge. The first thing they had to sort out was how much would it practically cost for each woman to take the test. The cost turned out to be USD 32 per woman. Money was raised and approximately 7,000 women were tested in Dar es Salaam and Morogoro. Out of this number, 46 women were found to have breast cancer and were further assisted in getting treatment. Mhaville said that was just one example of how the station has contributed to health and social causes in the country.

She emphasised the fact that the media can be partners and not just mere vehicles of disseminating information. The Programme Director of the National Muslim Council of Tanzania (BAKWATA), Ms Asina Shenduli, said that the faith based organisation took advantage of its strong administrative structure both nationally and regionally to implement HIV/AIDS prevention and intervention programmes sponsored by AMREF.

Shenduli said as a result of the programme, faith leaders changed their perception on HIV/AIDS and now go out to reach people. Effective sustainable social responsibility was another topic that was brought up during the discussion. The Managing Director of Barclays Bank Tanzania, Mr Kihara Maina, said that at the end of the day, private companies and indeed banks when supporting
social causes would like to know what returns they would get from the capital they are putting in.

He gave an example of how his bank sets aside a percentage of the annual profits towards a social fund that reflects the fundamental strengths of the Bank. He says as private partners collectively contributing towards causes, there is a need for harmony so as to avoid competing interests. Maina says that in addition to financial support, the Bank encourages its employees to citizenship agendas so that they get a hands-on experience of what it is like to be involved with the community.

The First Secretary from the Netherlands Embassy, Rik Peeperkorn, said that over the last ten years there have been achievements in the health sector in the country. The good news is that Tanzania is on track with the Millennium Development Goal number six; combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. He called upon the need to invest in health systems and key stakeholders in the delivery of services and training of health personnel while encouraging performance based investments.

Winding up the discussion, the Country Director, AMREF Tanzania, Dr Festus Ilako, said investing in health makes business sense. In
the first place companies cannot do good business if their customers and clients are not well. He said that for the health sector to improve, the private-public partnership has to grow from strength to strength. The major challenge at the moment was how to encourage more Tanzanian companies to come on board as partners in health.

He gave an example of how more than 90 per cent of the funds from the private sector towards AMREF project came from international companies based in Tanzania. The Minister, Dr Nkya, said that public-private partnerships involve the government moving away from its old traditional role of being the direct provider to playing the role of an enabler and regulator for the provision of set services.

The minister said that the partnership needs to be a ‘win-win’ situation whereby all parties benefit and partners are transparent and practical not forgetting that partnerships need to fit in the local context and meet local needs. In conclusion, the Minister, in regards to meeting Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) said, “We therefore need to work smarter if we want to step up our efforts until 2015 and public-private partnerships are the way to go.”

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