The African Forum for Research and Education in Health (AFREhealth) is an interdisciplinary health professional grouping that seeks to work with Ministries of Health, training institutions and other stakeholders to improve the quality of health care in Africa through research, education and capacity building. It is a conglomerate of individuals, institutions, associations and networks from all the geographic and linguistic regions of Africa namely Anglophone, Francophone, Lusophone and Arabophone. Membership is open to African and external stakeholders committed to an Africa with strong, self-sustaining and robust health systems.
It was launched by the joint leadership of MEPI (Medical Education Partnership Initiative) and NEPI (Nursing Education Partnership Initiative) during the MEPI/NEPI Symposium in Nairobi on 2nd August 2016 through the adoption of the Nairobi Resolution on AFREhealth.
Genesis of AFREhealth
AFREhealth is an independent body that emerged from the Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI) and Nursing Education Partnership Initiative (NEPI). MEPI and NEPI were funded by PEPFAR-NIH in 2010 and 2011, when awards were made to selected African medical, nursing and health science schools. Over the past 7 years, the group of Principal Investigators (PIs) from African beneficiary institutions, worked to enhance education in their schools, to encourage research, promote quality health care and to form a network for Africa. AFREhealth now brings together leadership from more than 60 medical and nursing schools in Africa and seeks to extend the gains of MEPI/NEPI to more schools in Africa.
Both MEPI and NEPI aimed to support medical professional training and research development, address the critical shortage of health personnel including nurses and midwives, strengthen their quality and capacity, and increase the capacity of selected schools and the educational system overall. Specifically, the two initiatives’ goals were to: a) increase the numbers and improve the quality of medical and nursing graduates; b) promote retention of graduates where they are most needed; c) improve the capacity to undertake regionally relevant research; d) build communities of practice within Africa and globally; and e) ensure sustainability.
MEPI and NEPI brought together African schools and external partners from US, UK, Brazil and Canada. The collaboration helped to augment the leadership, educational and research capacity of beneficiary schools in Africa. Even though the focus of MEPI and NEPI was on medical and nursing education, it became clear during their implementation that the needs of other health professions could not be overlooked. Thus, schools of pharmacy, dentistry, nutrition, laboratory science, physiotherapy etc. benefited from the training and capacity building activities under the initiatives.
AFREhealth’s mission is to be inter-professional, sustain the gains of MEPI/NEPI and expand them to more schools across Africa. This is based on the belief that the complex health problems facing the continent can only be solved by all health professions working together as a team. Since its inception a year ago AFREhealth has engaged with the leadership of institutions in the so-called fragile states including Liberia, Sierra Leone, and DR Congo. Partnerships are being formed with African and external stakeholders to pursue our goals for research and education. Our representatives have interacted with other delegates to the World Health Assembly and participated in discussions on the health workforce crisis, SDGs and universal health coverage.
We have participated in discussions with the African Platform Forum. Our engagements with Ministries of health and Education and other in-country partners are ongoing. The US government investment in MEPI and NEPI through PEPFAR can be credited for the formation of AFREhealth. However, the sustainability of this body remains the responsibility of African health leaders. Unless funder initiatives become locally owned they will neither be sustained nor make the desired impact on the continent. Stakeholders from medicine, nursing, dentistry, public health, pharmacy, laboratory science, nutrition, etc. must overcome traditional barriers and work together to address Africa’s health challenges.
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