What should the Health Sector focus on in 2018?

A number of achievements have been registered in the Health Sector for the year 2017. However, a set of challenges remain at hand, hence requiring more effort from stakeholders to address them. Healthy Times’ Donah Mbabazi asked various stakeholders about where they think focus should be put in the Health Sector.

Malick Kayumba, Head of Communications Rwanda Biomedical Centre

What we need to focus on is prevention; remember the moto in health care is ‘prevention is better than cure’. We need to make sure that most people know how to prevent - ‘attack the disease before it attacks them’. This is where we are putting most effort, for example, in prevention of non-communicable diseases. We will also encourage people to do more sports; also test early for all diseases such that they know their status. One of the challenges we have is in relation with family planning but next year there is going to be the biggest event, a conference on family planning that will help tackle pending issues. On the other hand, we will focus on young people preventing early pregnancies, HIV and drug abuse.

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Dr Brenda Asiimwe Kateera, country programme manager at AIDS Health care Foundation Rwanda (AHF)

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There are several priorities for the Health Sector but below would be at the top of my list: Address continuing new HIV infections, teenage pregnancies and Gender-Based Violence especially among adolescent girls and young women. This needs a multi-sectorial approach and not only the health sector; combatting malnutrition in both prevention and management of acute and chronic malnutrition, we still have unacceptably high rates at 38 per cent, especially among children. We, however, should also address the increase in obesity; Rwanda is now facing a double burden of disease - infectious diseases and the rising epidemic of non-communicable diseases. The health system needs to be urgently prepared to handle this situation, train health care professionals, have adequate health infrastructure and specialised units to handle the NCDs, for example cancer units. The Private Sector should be involved more in the Health Sector, especially in light of decreasing donor funding which the Health Sector has heavily relied on; improvement in quality of health care services in all aspects at all levels, especially the health centres and district hospitals where majority of Rwandans access health care services.

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Revocat Murekatete, community health worker

For the year 2018 let stakeholders put focus in fighting malnutrition, especially in rural areas. This can be done through a series of sensitisation drives, also, encouraging all households to put effort in owning small gardens. The health sector should also focus on the promotion of family planning services.

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Kenneth Ruzindana, consultant gynecologist, Kibagabaga Hospital

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The new priority of the Health Sector should be to prevent and treat non-communicable diseases, like cancer, heart disease, and renal diseases. For this purpose, referral hospitals have to be strengthened with diagnostic equipment (scanners, CT-scan, etcetera). Dialysis equipment has been installed in University Teaching Hospital of Butare, King Faisal Hospital and University Teaching Hospital of Kigali and other regional referral hospitals are being equipped to treat dialysis patients. A cancer centre has been created in Butaro District Hospital and capacity is being built in terms of human resources. However, we need to consolidate the gains made in the past years, by moving forward as a country in terms of managing these cases to cut down on referrals abroad. We need to have a fully-fledged radiotherapy and chemotherapy centre to cut down on the numbers of people dying from these illnesses that are otherwise curable in many instances. We have made impressive gains in reduction of maternal, neonatal and child mortality and a time has come to put more resources in non-communicable diseases.

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Charles Shyaka, student

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Cancer has been one of the deadliest ailments of late; effort in prevention measures should be strengthened. People should always be reminded to go for regular check-ups, this way, more success will be registered.

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Fabrice Humura, media and publication officer at International Pharmaceutical Students Federation

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I see critical issues that need to be revamped and that means increasing the number of pharmacists in hospitals. Up to now pharmacists incorporated in hospitals are minimal to null and yet gaps that need to be filled by pharmacists are quite huge. Pharmacists in hospitals are the right healthcare providers who can interact closely with the prescribers (mostly doctors) and therefore, promote the rational prescribing and use of drugs.  Pharmacists are in a better position to educate other health professionals about the use of drugs. Consequently, due to a handful of pharmacists in hospitals, they are all preoccupied with procurement of drugs in the supply of quality products which is one role among many that pharmacists ought to be delivering in hospitals.

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Yvonne Nirere, businesswoman

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Teen pregnancy has been an issue of late so I think this is one area that needs more effort. Young people should be constantly reminded about the dangers of early pregnancy and other health-related repercussions because it is not only pregnancy, but they can also contract sexually transmitted infections.

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Lovence Mutoni, pharmacist

I think the focus should be put on behavioural change campaigns since most of the hindrances stem from the fact that people’s mind-sets find it hard to come around certain initiatives and adapt to new changes.

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