In The News
09 Feb 2014

Technology use canvassed as Health Innovation Marketplace is launched

Disturbed by sub-optimal health outcomes, poor quality of care, and lack of protection from financial risk which confronts Nigeria’s health market, stakeholders have advocated deployment of appropriate health applications in order to accelerate Nigeria’s progress towards attaining health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The stakeholders said this at the launch of Nigeria Health Innovation Marketplace (NHIM), an initiative of Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria (PHN) aimed at leveraging private sector capabilities to improve health outcomes, in Lagos recently.

Despite Nigeria’s modest gains in health objectives, the country is not on-track to meet its health-related MDGs, according to Omobola Johnson, minister of communications technology.

The reasons for this, she said, were inadequate primary health care facilities, shortage of critical human resources, inadequate power and water supply, commodity stock-outs, and inadequate equipment.

The minister said that with a number of African countries, such as Ethiopia and Malawi, deploying appropriate health applications to accelerate progress in their healthcare systems, mobile phones remain an invaluable tool for improving the Nigerian health market through relevant applications and innovations.

Giving the specific example of Malawi, she said: “The impact has been an increase in PHC services from 76.9 percent in 2005 to 90 percent in 2010. Infant mortality rates also reduced from 17 percent in 2000 to 6.8 percent in 2012. One of the things undertaken to combat poor quality of data and delays on key child health indicators in Malawi was the implementation of an SMS platform to input and provide feedback on data. This reduced the delay in data transmission, improved surveillance, early identification and treatment of malnourished infants by public health workers.”

Johnson also cited the example of the Ondo State Abiye Programme, an initiative that links up pregnant mothers and infants up to the age five with health centres or nearby clinics, which she said was regarded as a success. “As at December 2012, after 34 months of operation, the programme recorded 59,557 registered patients including 32,439 under five years and 27,118 pregnant women, 15,730 safe deliveries, including 2,395 caesarean sections and 7,972 paediatric admissions,” she said, adding that these performance figures were noteworthy for a state that was ranked by the World Bank in 2008 as having the highest maternal deaths in South West Nigeria.

“The mobile phone is a formidable tool for social, economic development and inclusion. They are used in ways that empower patients, health workers, and health systems/administrators. They deliver messages to pregnant women and mothers, register newborns, disburse conditional cash transfers, deliver eLearning initiatives that complement the training of frontline health workers, as well as improve logistics and supply chains,” Johnson further explained.

Muntaqa Umar-Sadiq, executive director/chief executive officer, PHN, bemoaned the low application of innovation and technology in healthcare delivery, which is believed to be the biggest missed opportunity in transforming the nation’s healthcare delivery.

In order to leapfrog existing constraints and spur health innovations through a sustainable convergence platform, Umar-Sadiq said the PHN created the NHIM to identify promising innovations. The organisation, he said, also provides market linkages and incubation support to enable health innovation to achieve scale, make targeted investments in selected innovations that make it through the incubator, and build a sustainable convergence platform around health innovation.

He also revealed that PHN has secured working partnerships with the Ministry of Communications Technology, National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, PHN Telecoms, members, states, LGAs, GSMA and m--health alliance to design and pilot an innovative intervention to leverage phone masts’ excess power capacity to strengthen neighbouring primary healthcare centres (PHCs’ last mile vaccine cold chain infrastructure.

“The additional power capacity from more proximal mobile phone masts can be used to power the refrigeration of viable vaccines at selected mast shelters. The potential impact is to save thousands of lives by strengthening the efficiency of vaccine storage and delivery at the last mile and increase in the number of routine immunisation days. This will improve availability and effectiveness of vaccine stock and reduce wastage and stock-out of vaccines at the last mile,” he said.

For his part, Aliko Dangote, founding board member, PHN, said that addressing healthcare challenges in Nigeria in a bid to attain health-related MDGs required commitment and synergy among private sector players in the country.

“A healthier society is key in delivering MDG target. We cannot sit in our air-conditioned cars and watch at least one million lives lost from preventable diseases. We all should talk less and drive initiatives aimed at reducing maternal and child morbidity and mortality,” he said.

“Government has to be ready and willing to ensure healthcare delivery is attained. The NHIM steering committee set up will play a number of roles in supporting the success of the NHIM: oversight, visibility, accountability and partnerships. Driving activities of health innovation marketplace is not negotiable. We need to walk the talk and talk less,” he added.

Members of the NHIM steering committee include NPHCDA, GSK, Hygeia Group, Helois Investment Partners, CHMI, IPIHD, Solina Health, Anadach, Centre for Affordable Healthcare Technology, University of Oxford, Saving One Million Lives Initiatives, and Wennovation.

Dignitaries who graced the occasion include Jim Ovia, co-chair; Herbert Wigwe, founding board member; Muhammad Ali Pate, co-chair, all of PHN.

Others are Ado Mohammed, executive director, NPHCDA, Paul Orhii, director general, NAFDAC, Mairo Mandara, country director, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Jean Gough, country director, UNICEF, Lekan Asuni, MD/CEO, GSK Pharmaceuticals, and Sola David-Borha, CEO, Stanbic IBTC Holding plc.

It would be recalled that Bill Gates and business leaders in the country recently launched the PHN as a country-owned private sector-led multi-sectoral coalition focused on mobilising the private sector’s collective capabilities, assets and resources to accelerate improvement in health outcomes.