Publications by authors named "Martin Okechukwu Ota"

5 Publications

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Proceedings of the first African Health Forum: effective partnerships and intersectoral collaborations are critical for attainment of Universal Health Coverage in Africa.

BMC Proc 2018 3;12(Suppl 7). Epub 2018 Jul 3.

1WHO Regional Office for Africa, Brazzaville, Congo.

Background: Universal Health Coverage (UHC)is central to the health Sustainable Development Goals(SDG). Working towards UHC is a powerful mechanism for achieving the right to health and promoting human development which is a priority area of focus for the World Health Organization WHO. As a result, the WHO Regional Office for Africa convened the first-ever Africa Health Forum, co- hosted by the government of Rwanda in Kigali in June 2017 with the theme The Forum aimed to strengthen and forge new partnerships, align priorities and galvanize commitment to advance the health agenda in Africa in order to attain UHC and the SDGs. This paper reports the proceedings and conclusions of the forum.

Methods: The forum was attended by over 800 participants. It employed moderated panel and public discussions, and side events with political leaders, policy makers and technicians from ministries of health and finance, United Nations agencies, the private sector, the academia, philanthropic foundations, youth, women and non-governmental organizations drawn from within and outside the Region.

Conclusions: The commitment to achieve UHC was a collective expression of the belief that all people should have access to the health services they need without risk of financial hardship. The attainment of UHC will require a significant paradigm shift, including development of new partnerships especially public-private partnerships in selected areas with limited government resources, intersectoral collaboration to engage in interventions that affect health but are outside the purview of the ministries in charge of health and identification of public health issues where knowledge gaps exist as research priorities. The deliberations of the Forum culminated into a which pledged a renewed determination for Member States, in partnership with the private Sector, WHO, other UN Agencies and partners to support the attainment of the SDGs and UHC. There was agreement that immediate action was required to implement the call-to-action, and that the African Regional Office of WHO should develop a plan to rapidly operationalize the outcomes of the meeting.
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July 2018

Developing the African national health research systems barometer.

Health Res Policy Syst 2016 Jul 22;14(1):53. Epub 2016 Jul 22.

Department of Medicine, Groote Schuur Hospital and University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa.

Background: A functional national health research system (NHRS) is crucial in strengthening a country's health system to promote, restore and maintain the health status of its population. Progress towards the goal of universal health coverage in the post-2015 sustainable development agenda will be difficult for African countries without strengthening of their NHRS to yield the required evidence for decision-making. This study aims to develop a barometer to facilitate monitoring of the development and performance of NHRSs in the African Region of WHO.

Methods: The African national health research systems barometer algorithm was developed in response to a recommendation of the African Advisory Committee for Health Research and Development of WHO. Survey data collected from all the 47 Member States in the WHO African Region using a questionnaire were entered into an Excel spreadsheet and analysed. The barometer scores for each country were calculated and the performance interpreted according to a set of values ranging from 0% to 100%.

Results: The overall NHRS barometer score for the African Region was 42%, which is below the average of 50%. Among the 47 countries, the average NHRS performance was less than 20% in 10 countries, 20-40% in 11 countries, 41-60% in 16 countries, 61-80% in nine countries, and over 80% in one country. The performance of NHRSs in 30 (64%) countries was below 50%.

Conclusion: An African NHRS barometer with four functions and 17 sub-functions was developed to identify the gaps in and facilitate monitoring of NHRS development and performance. The NHRS scores for the individual sub-functions can guide policymakers to locate sources of poor performance and to design interventions to address them.
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July 2016

Readiness of ethics review systems for a changing public health landscape in the WHO African Region.

BMC Med Ethics 2015 Dec 2;16(1):82. Epub 2015 Dec 2.

World Health Organization, Regional Office for Africa, Brazzaville, Congo.

Background: The increasing emphasis on research, development and innovation for health in providing solutions to the high burden of diseases in the African Region has warranted a proliferation of studies including clinical trials. This changing public health landscape requires that countries develop adequate ethics review capacities to protect and minimize risks to study participants. Therefore, this study assessed the readiness of national ethics committees to respond to challenges posed by a globalized biomedical research system which is constantly challenged by new public health threats, rapid scientific and technological advancements affecting biomedical research and development, delivery and manufacture of vaccines and therapies, and health technology transfer.

Methods: This is a descriptive study, which used a questionnaire structured to elicit information on the existence of relevant national legal frameworks, mechanisms for ethical review; as well as capacity requirements for national ethics committees. The questionnaire was available in English and French and was sent to 41 of the then 46 Member States of the WHO African Region, excluding the five Lusophone Member States. Information was gathered from senior officials in ministries of health, who by virtue of their offices were considered to have expert knowledge of research ethics review systems in their respective countries.

Results: Thirty three of the 41 countries (80.5 %) responded. Thirty (90.9 %) of respondent countries had a national ethics review committee (NEC); 79 % of which were established by law. Twenty-five (83.3 %) NECs had secretarial and administrative support. Over 50 % of countries with NECs indicated a need for capacity strengthening through periodic training on international guidelines for health research (including clinical trials) ethics; and allocation of funds for administrative and secretariat support.

Conclusions: Despite the existing training initiatives, the Region still experiences a shortage of professionals trained in health research ethics/ethicists. Committees continue to face various capacity needs especially for evaluating clinical trials, for monitoring ongoing research, database management and for accrediting institutional ethics committees. Given the growing number of clinical trials involving human participants in the African Region, there is urgent need for supporting countries without NECs to establish them; capacity strengthening where they exist; and creation of a regional network and joint ethical review mechanisms, whose membership would be open to all NECs of the Region.
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December 2015

National health research systems in the WHO African Region: current status and the way forward.

Health Res Policy Syst 2015 Oct 30;13:61. Epub 2015 Oct 30.

Research, Publications and Library Services Programme, Health Systems & Services Cluster, World Health Organization, Regional Office for Africa, Brazzaville, Congo.

Background: A number of resolutions of the World Health Assembly and the WHO Regional Committee for Africa call upon African countries and their development partners to make the required investments in national health research systems (NHRS) to generate knowledge and promote its use in tackling priority public health challenges. Implementation of these resolutions is critical for Africa to progress with the rest of the world in achieving the post-2015 health sustainable development goal. This study assesses the current status of some NHRS components in the 47 countries of the WHO African Region, identifies the factors that enable and constrain NHRS, and proposes the way forward.

Methods: To track progress in NHRS components and for comparison, a questionnaire that was used in NHRS surveys in 2003 and 2009 was administered in all 47 countries in the African Region. The national health research focal persons were responsible for completing the questionnaire, which had been hand-delivered to them by the WHO country office staff in charge of research, who also briefed them on the survey, went through the questionnaire for clarity, and sought their informed consent.

Results: All the 47 countries responded to the questionnaire, but some did not answer all questions. Of the countries responding to various questions 49 % (23/47) had a national health research policy; 47 % (22/47) had a health strategic plan; 40 % (19/47) had legislation governing research; 53 % (25/47) had a national health research priority agenda; 51 % (24/47) reported having a functional NHRS and a national health research management forum; 91 % (43/47) had an ethical review committee; 49 % (23/47) had hospitals with ethical review committees to review clinical research proposals; 51 % (24/47) had a scientific review committee; 62 % (29/47) had health institutions with scientific review committees; 83 % (39/47) had a national health research focal point; 51 % (24/47) had a health research programme; 55 % (26/47) had a national health or medical research institute or council; 93 % (41/44) had at least one university faculty of health sciences that conducted health research; and 33 % (15/46) had a knowledge translation platform. Forty-seven percent of countries reported having a budget line for research for health in the ministry of health budget. Between 2003 and 2014, the countries with a functional NHRS increased from 30 % to 51 %.

Conclusion: Compared with 2003 and 2009 surveys, our survey found many countries to have made progress in strengthening some of the functions of their NHRS. However, there remains an urgent need for countries without NHRS to establish them and for others to improve the functionality and efficiency of every NHRS component. This is necessary for the national governments to effectively execute their leadership and governance of NHRS and to create an enabling environment within which research for health can flourish.
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October 2015

Epidemiological and Surveillance Response to Ebola Virus Disease Outbreak in Lofa County, Liberia (March-September, 2014); Lessons Learned.

PLoS Curr 2015 May 6;7. Epub 2015 May 6.

Immunization Vaccine and Emergencies Program, Regional Office for Africa, World Health Organization, Brazzaville, Congo.

Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak was confirmed in Liberia on March 31st 2014. A response comprising of diverse expertise was mobilized and deployed to the country to contain transmission of Ebola and give relief to a people already impoverished from protracted civil war. This paper describes the epidemiological and surveillance response to the EVD outbreak in Lofa County in Liberia from March to September 2014. Five of the 6 districts of Lofa were affected. The most affected districts were Voinjama/Guardu Gbondi and Foya. By 26th September, 2014, a total of 619 cases, including 19.4% probable cases, 20.3% suspected cases and 44.2% confirmed cases were recorded by the Ebola Emergency Response Team (EERT) of Lofa County. Adults (20-50 years) were the most affected. Overall fatality rate was 53.3%.  Twenty two (22) cases were reported among the Health Care Workers with a fatality rate of 81.8%. Seventy eight percent (78%) of the contacts successfully completed 21 days follow-up while 134 (6.15%) that developed signs and symptoms of EVD were referred to the ETU in Foya. The contributions of the weak health systems as well as socio-cultural factors in fueling the epidemic are highlighted. Importantly, the lessons learnt including the positive impact of multi-sectorial and multidisciplinary and coordinated response led by the government and community.  Again, given that the spread of infectious disease can be considered a security threat every effort has to put in place to strengthen the health systems in developing countries including the International Health Regulation (IHR)'s core capacities. Key words:  Ebola virus disease, outbreak, epidemiology and surveillance, socio-cultural factors, health system, West Africa.
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May 2015