Future of Healthcare in Africa


Improving health outcomes in Africa will require a shift to preventive care and less reliance on international aid, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit

African-HealthA wholesale restructuring of Africa’s healthcare systems will be necessary over the next ten years, including measures to expand access to healthcare, to focus on primary care and prevention, and to manage chronic conditions. These reforms can be achieved by giving local communities more control over their healthcare, by using mobile technologies, and by committing countries to a form of universal healthcare coverage.

These are the key findings of a new Economist Intelligence Unit report on The future of healthcare in Africa, sponsored by Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson.

Such reforms are crucial if African healthcare is to remain sustainable and effective over the coming decade. Healthcare demands are changing as the continent confronts multiple epidemiological crises simultaneously. Major communicable diseases are putting huge strains on the continent’s healthcare systems, yet lifestyle diseases are expected to become the greater health challenge in Africa by 2030.

Currently, healthcare delivery infrastructure is insufficient, skilled healthcare workers and crucial medicines are in short supply, and poor procurement and distribution systems are leading to unequal access to treatment.

future of healthcare in africaSome promising trends are already pointing towards a possible future for African healthcare, however. These are set out in the report, which explores the challenges involved in reforming Africa’s healthcare systems over the next decade. The study investigates the drivers behind current healthcare shortfalls, and looks at future trends in African healthcare systems over the next decade. It suggests five potential scenarios for African healthcare in the year 2022. These reflect current trends, and are intended to show the possible consequences of decisions being taken by health system stakeholders today. (This study follows a report conducted in March 2010 on The future of healthcare in Europe.) DOWNLOAD FREE HERE

How should African healthcare systems evolve to tackle new challenges – and continue to meet growing demand?

According to a 2011 study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank and USAid, investing an additional $21-$36 per person on healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa would save more than 3 million lives in the year 2015. 90% of those saved would be women and children. Such an investment would also generate $100 billion in economic benefits.

The research produced the following key findings:

The main drivers of current healthcare inadequacies in Africa are: a continuing struggle with communicable diseases; the rise of chronic diseases; strained resources and limited infrastructure; and major gaps in financing.

Considering the massive challenges facing Africa’s healthcare systems, several major reforms will be needed continent-wide to ensure their viability in the long term:

  • shifting the focus of healthcare delivery from curing to preventive care and keeping people healthy;
  • giving local communities more control over healthcare resources;
  • improving access to healthcare via mobile technologies;
  • tightening controls over medicines, medical devices, and improving their distribution;
  • reducing reliance on international aid organisations to foster development of more dependable local supplies; and
  • extending universal health insurance coverage to the poorest Africans.
  • Implementation of these reforms could strongly influence the future shape of healthcare in Africa. The Economist Intelligence Unit has identified the following five extreme scenarios to show how the system might develop over the next decade. While fictitious and intended to fuel debate, the future is likely to feature some elements of these scenarios:
  • health systems shift to focus on preventive rather than curative care;
  • governments transfer healthcare decision-making to the local level;
  • universal coverage becomes a reality, giving all Africans access to a basic package of benefits;
  • telemedicine and related mobile-phone technology becomes the dominant means of delivering healthcare advice and treatment;universal coverage becomes a reality, giving all Africans access to a basic package of benefits;
  • continued global instability forces many international donors to pull out of Africa or drastically cut support levels, leaving governments to fill the gaps.

The Future of Healthcare in Africa

Healthcare demands in Africa are changing. Ensuring access to clean water and sanitation, battling ongoing communicable diseases and stemming the tide of preventable deaths still dominate the healthcare agenda in many countries. However, the incidence of chronic disease is rising fast, creating a new matrix of challenges for Africa’s healthcare workers, policy makers and donors.

0Africa’s healthcare systems are at a turning point. The reforms that governments undertake over the next decade will be crucial to cutting mortality rates and improving health outcomes in the continent.

The Economist Intelligence Unit has undertaken this research to focus on how African healthcare systems might develop between now and 2022. It looks at both current challenges and promising reforms. The five scenarios that have emerged from this research reflect these trends, and are intended to show the possible consequences of decisions being taken by healthcare’s stakeholders today.

To research this report, the Economist Intelligence Unit surveyed the literature and data available on Africa’s current healthcare systems. We also conducted 34 in-depth interviews with leading experts in the different professional roles that make up the healthcare sector: academics, clinicians, healthcare providers, policymakers, medical suppliers, and think tanks.

The interviews were carried out by Andrea Chipman and Richard Nield. Andrea Chipman was the author of the report and Stephanie Studer and Aviva Freudmann were the editors.

Press enquiries:

Joanne McKenna, Press Liaison, +44 20 7576 8188; joannemckenna@eiu.com

Stephanie Studer, Project Director, +49 69 717188 163; stephaniestuder@economist.com

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