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Reflections on the Tanzania Health Summit 2019

By Prudence Masako, EngenderHealth Country Representative, Tanzania

At the Tanzania Health Summit 2019, which took place recently in Dodoma, high-level government officials and other health sector leaders shared their insights on the health of the country’s people and the state of health systems, including progress to date and goals for the future. Each year the conference is attended by a wide variety of health professionals from doctors and nurses to health policymakers and private health investors. The goal of the summit is to exchange ideas and best practices across disciplines to improve public health and healthcare delivery in the country. This year, the theme of the summit was, “Public and Private Health Systems Improvement: Efficiency and Impact,” encouraging discussion throughout the week on topics such as investing in preventive care, partnering effectively with communities, engaging citizens, and focusing on holistic, integrated approaches to improving health.

It was a pleasure to have Hon. Ummy Mwalimu, the Minister of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly, and Children, as the Guest of Honor at the Summit. Hon. Mwalimu emphasized that a combination of political and community support is vital for effective delivery of quality health services, including the private sector. She showed her appreciation for the private sector’s involvement in the health sector, mentioning efforts to increase access to health services by improving infrastructure, and saying, “The Government of Tanzania acknowledges the support of the private sector in the improvement of the health sector in Tanzania.” When visiting the EngenderHealth booth, Hon. Mwalimu was impressed by the book, Uislamu na Uzazi wa Mpango (Islam and Family Planning), developed by EngenderHealth in partnership with the Sheikhs in Zanzibar. The book describes how family planning fits within the framework of Islamic beliefs. Hon. Mwalimu encouraged EngenderHealth to share the book widely.

President’s Office of Regional Administration and Local Government, Hon. Selemani Said Jafo highlighted improvements in preventive services and challenged insurance companies to develop special packages for people at all income levels to obtain health coverage. He challenged Regional Commissioners to ensure citizens enroll in the National Health Insurance Fund. Hon. Jafo also urged government leaders to respect health care providers, indicating that it helps them maintain positive morale towards their work.

As EngenderHealth’s Tanzania Country Representative, I had the opportunity to speak during one of the Summit’s plenary sessions. I shared my views on the contributions of NGOs in health service delivery, focusing on the importance of preventative care. I believe preventive care helps a population stay healthy. Preventive health is beneficial in two ways: first, it reduces economic burdens at the household level and country level; second, it improves quality of life.

As an organization, EngenderHealth focuses on improving the sexual and reproductive health of women and girls, using a gender lens to address related social determinants of sexual and reproductive health. Focusing on gender does not mean we exclusively support women and girls—we work with men and boys, as well. For over 75 years globally, and for 25 years in Tanzania, we have invested in addressing economic, social, and political issues that affect the health and wellbeing of citizens. We believe the public and private sectors are well-positioned to offer quality health services to Tanzanians through effective partnership. We are pleased to partner closely with both the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly, and Children and the President’s Office, Regional Administration and Local Government, as well as community leaders, NGOs, and other stakeholders around the country. Together, we hope to expand access to sexual and reproductive health information and services, advance gender equality, reduce gender-based violence (GBV) and support GBV survivors, and improve the quality of care for all Tanzanians. The Tanzania Health Summit 2019 provided an excellent opportunity to connect with key partners who are also focused on these issues.