The Tower Center hosted the panel discussion “Global Health Diplomacy” Oct. 18 featuring the former President of Nigeria H. E. Olusegun Obasanjo, Bishop Sunday Onuoha, the founder and president of Vision Africa, Fiemu Nwarkiaku, associate dean at UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Office of Global Health, and Eric Bing, professor of global health at SMU.
The panel, moderated by Frank Roby, a Gallagher Healthcare Practice Leader, discussed the state of Nigeria healthcare, past, present, and future, and how healthcare problems in developing nations can impact the rest of the world. They also spoke about the U.S.’s past interactions with developing healthcare in Africa, and how recent political choices, like the cutting of funding for various programs, will impact the African continent and the international community.
Here are my five take-aways from the panel:
1. Nigeria’s Success has Old Foundations
Healthcare and educational foundations built by missionaries combined with the country’s willingness to admit to health-related problems have helped Nigeria to lead Sub-Saharan Africa in healthcare.
2. The Importance of Interfaith
Interfaith approaches are of paramount importance for successful African healthcare; in communities where religious institutions are one of the greatest ways to positively impact the community, building a healthcare solution with only the input of one segment of the religious society can lead to disaster for everyone.
3. Technology Brings Hope
Improving technology is one of the greatest causes for hope. Machines that allow for more mobility, like drones, and tech that makes medical professionals more efficient are helping to increase not only the level of care that can be provided, but also the speed at which it can be administered.
4. Helping Africa Helps Everyone
Assistance from the international community is not only incredibly helpful, it is in the best interest of those countries that send the help. Diseases that start epidemics in Africa don’t care about the nationality of whom they infect, so it makes sense for countries to help solve healthcare problems in Africa as soon as they’re an issue, instead of letting them spread to other regions.
5. How to Make Assistance Effective
International assistance is generally the most successful if it starts by focusing on one problem and then expands its focus as it becomes necessary to better provide for the community. Programs should be open to primary healthcare by any and all members of the community that can provide it, and should focus on the long-term goal of improving Nigeria’s facilities so that all Nigerian citizens can be comfortable staying in country for their health needs.
Destiny Rose Murphy is a junior at SMU triple majoring in political science, English, and philosophy, as well as minoring in Human Rights and Public Policy and International Affairs. She is a Highland Capital Management Tower Scholar.