Zim health urged to start small for real results

The World Health Organisation has urged the ten inter - ministerial Social Determinants of Health (SDH) working group to start small and aim for tangible results.

“The agenda for the setting up SDH team is a huge task but as a starting point we do not need to be over-ambitious,” Odette Cossa from WHO told a meeting in Harare.

“Think big, because the agenda is huge, but let us start small with tangible results in the next five years rather than starting big as a commission and yielding few results and vague speeches.”

Cossa said it was important was to have key people, including the office of the president and cabinet, focus on working together to monitor and evaluate the efforts of the group.

The deputy director for health promotion in the health ministry, Samuel Tsoka, had suggested that the relevant ministers should commit to the work by signing a memorandum of agreement. He also said a commission should be set up to make it a serious project.

The health ministry principal director, Gibson Mhlanga, said the idea of having ministers sign a memorandum of understanding could be taken as a symbolic way of showing commitment.

The deputy director of mental health, Dorcas Sithole, argued that this would only complicate matters.

“Memoranda of understanding are too bureaucratic and not necessary. Having them would delay processes and engagement among ministries. Rather make those chosen as focus people carry out their duties on behalf of their ministries and report back to ministers,” she said.

Directors or deputy directors of departments with direct link to social health determinants from all the ten key ministries were appointed as focus points to make up the SDH working group or committee.

Meanwhile, WHO country representative David Okello noted that Zimbabwe had lost its momentum in driving the agenda on SDH since the national stakeholders’ workshop in June 2011 ahead of a Rio summit.

“Some of the key determinants in Zimbabwe relate to health risk factors such as tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol and consumption of unhealthy diets,” said Okello.

He said it was important to regulate industry, in particular those marketing and advertising tobacco products, alcohol and fast foods. “There is also need for a concerted multi-sector approach to preventing road traffic injuries,” he added.

The SDH working group is inspired by the work of the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health (2005-2008) meant to spearhead and highlight issues of SDH, identify relevant stakeholders and their roles and ensure that there is deliberate effort to include a health element in all policies in Zimbabwe.

The ministry of local government, public works and housing was absent at this crucial meeting, despite the ministry being responsible for local authorities, which in turn looked after water and sanitation, primary health care and housing.

Post published in: Health

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