AFREhealthThe African Forum for Research and Education in Health (AFREhealth) is a landmark organization, the first that will actually have Africans tackling major health challenges in Africa, rather than Western countries.

During the sixth MEPI/NEPI Annual Symposium, African health leaders announced the creation of AFREhealth, an interdisciplinary health professional initiative working to improve healthcare in Africa through improved education, research and capacity building.

In the past, international donors have largely funded and directed efforts to improve health conditions in Africa. However, AFREhealth seeks to reduce such reliance on international funding and set their own, more useful local agendas. Therefore, Africans will lead the initiative in collaboration with partner organizations.

Key health solutions that AFREhealth will strive to achieve include encouraging African governments to prioritize healthcare in individual countries, working to keep local health professionals in Africa and securing more funding to support focused, local African health research.

One of the forum’s goals, preventing the loss of skilled health professionals to foreign markets, came to light during the HIV/AIDS crisis. A severe shortage of skilled health workers significantly limited governments’ efforts to respond to the crisis. Recent reports reveal a 60 percent increase in the number of doctors and nurses moving out of Africa to work in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries.

A study done in South Africa highlighted the severity of the issue and reflects the scenario throughout the rest of the continent. The survey revealed that although the number people leaving may be decreasing slowly, the level of intention to leave remains very high.

Additionally, a severe disparity between the number of skilled health professionals in the private versus public and urban versus rural areas exists. Consequently, South Africa struggles to produce sufficient numbers of workers in HIV scale-up programs and to adequately staff rural facilities.

The South African study revealed a number of reasons for the emigration of so many health professionals. Many workers expressed dissatisfaction with South Africa’s economic and political standing, concerns about corruption and fear for personal safety and the safety of their families.

AFREhealth seeks to reduce all of these problems in order to improve African health at a more rural level. The organization has a lot of work ahead, but African experts believe through their greater understanding of their own individual countries, success is much more likely.

Lauren McBride
Photo: Flickr