Sustaining Public Health Programs in Africa


Opening Remarks by Dr. Chinua Akukwe, Chairman of the Technical Advisory Board, George Washington University (GWU) Africa Center for Health and Security, Washington, DC
On the Workshop on Sustaining Public Health Programs in Africa - Organized by the GWU School of Public Health and Health Services and the Africa Center for Health and Security, September 14th, 2005, Washington, DC

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
September 16, 2005


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Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, it is an honor to provide opening remarks on this very important workshop focusing on sustaining public health programs in Africa.

Infectious diseases (such as polio, malaria, TB, and HIV/AIDS), natural disasters, and other forms of humanitarian emergencies affect the health and well being of individuals and communities. These situations particularly impact the health and stability of many African countries.

For example, according to UNAIDS, more than 25 million adults and children in sub-Saharan Africa are living with HIV, and an estimated twelve million children have been orphaned by AIDS.

In 2003, an estimated 2.2 million people died from AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. AIDS threatens the social stability and national security of Africa because the virus impacts every aspect of life including economic activity, agricultural practices, childhood development, labor forces, etc.

In order to address this issue, there is great interest in expanding and enhancing public health systems in Africa to meet demand and expectations.

Sufficient human capacity and resources are needed to provide health interventions that impact communities and households across Africa.

One goal of this workshop is to explore public health threats including:

· Long-term sustainability of public health programs;
· Access and human rights issues;
· Public health education and research; and,
· Effect of gender on access to public health services.

A second goal is to discuss public health interventions such as

· Developing a comprehensive approach to healthcare;
· Building capacity;
· Evaluating the relevance of laws and societal structures; and
· Examining the role of cultural and social issues.

The George Washington University (GWU) is keenly aware of health issues that plague Africa and how those health problems have escalated to pose a global health and security crisis.

That is why the GWU Provost and Vice President for Health Affairs, Dr. John “Skip” Williams created the Africa Center for Health and Security in November 2004.

This workshop is co-sponsored by the Africa Center for Health and Security and the School of Public Health and Health Services. The idea for the workshop was put forth by a multi-disciplinary group of experts that comprises the Africa Center’s Technical Advisory Board. The Technical Advisory Board, which I have the honor of chairing, is made up of GWU faculty and staff from schools and departments across the University.

In particular, experts from the School of Public Health, Medical School, and Law School collaborated to develop the agenda for this workshop.

As moderator of today’s session, we are pleased to have the Honorable David Shinn, a former ambassador and adjunct faculty member in the Elliott School of International Affairs. Ambassador David Shinn is a distinguished member of the Africa Center Technical Advisory Board which I chair.

Ambassador Shinn has in-depth area expertise in Africa, especially East Africa and the Horn of Africa. Ambassador Shin served as the United States ambassador to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso. He also served at the US embassy in Tanzania, Kenya, Sudan, Mauritania, Cameroon and Chad.

Ambassador Shinn holds several degrees from GWU including a bachelor’s degree in government, a master’s degree in international affairs, and a Ph.D. in political science.

Ambassador Shinn gives back to the University by teaching courses on Africa in the Elliott School of International Affairs.

I look forward to the rest of the Workshop.

Thank you.