Thursday, March 28, 2013

 The 4th EAC Health and Scientific Conference and International Trade Fair & Health Exhibition opened today in Kigali, Rwanda, bringing together more than 300 health researchers, scientists and policy-makers from all over the world.

The 27 to 29 March conference at the Kigali Serena Hotel has been organized on the main theme Regional Health Priorities and Opportunities: “Evidence for Action in the Changing Global Financial Situation and has four sub-themes namely: Maternal and Child Health (Achieving the MDGs for Maternal and Child Health); Non-Communicable Diseases and Trauma; Health Systems Strengthening and Quality of Health Care.

Rwandan Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Pierre Damien Habumuryemi officially opened the conference and observed that it was an important platform through which the region’s scientists and policy makers would exchange information on areas of common concern for the EAC countries, namely maternal and child health, non-communicable diseases, quality of care and health systems.

The Rwandan Premier lauded the move to establish the East African Community Health Research Commission, which he said would promote research-based decision-making and policy formulation.

“Once fully operationalized, this Commission will be especially resourceful with regard to the development of sustainable regional mechanisms for addressing issues related to health research, the utilisation of research findings for technological and sustainable healthcare delivery, as well as for translating the research findings to policy formulation and practice within the region,” Rt. Hon. Habumuryemi said.

Speaking on the issue of tobacco control, a subject that features prominently among the main discussion topics in the three-day conference, the Rwandan Prime Minister reiterated his country’s support for the implementation of the relevant provisions of the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control but highlighted the need to take on board concerns from different sectors in regard to this matter.

“There is a need for a balance between public health, fiscal policy, trade and agriculture realities and the impact of the guidelines of this Convention on the national revenue, livelihoods and foreign exchange earnings in the short and long term,” the Premier asserted.

“I therefore, call on the EAC Partner States to come up with a common position on this matter and present to the next meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control”.

The conference also features five symposiums covering subjects that include population, HIV & AIDS, sexual and gender based violence, disaster preparedness and tobacco control.

Also speaking at the event, Uganda’s Minister for Health and Chairperson of the EAC Sectoral Council of Ministers of Health Hon. Dr. Christine Ondoa challenged the region to formulate a health research agenda, and recommended that a mechanism be put in place to implement the resolutions of the conference, while the EAC Deputy Secretary General in charge of Productive and Social Sectors Hon. Jesca Eriyo observed that the Partner States share similarities in their healthcare delivery systems which necessitates a collective response to health problems.

“This requires a strong mechanism for sharing health related information, harmonizing policies and practices and building consensus among Partner States,” Hon. Eriyo said.

Prof. Khama Rogo, Lead Health Specialist at the World Bank who made the opening presentation on Regional Health Priorities and Opportunities- Evidence for action in a changing global financial situation challenged the EAC to focus on results, training and health insurance provision.

During the conference the EAC Open Health Initiative to Improve Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn and Child Health will be officially launched. The Open Health Initiative aims to support the Partner States reach their goals for women’s and children’s health by focusing on three thematic areas: ‘Accountability for Results and Resources’, ‘Results-based Financing’, and ‘Innovation’.

The 4th EAC Health and Scientific Conference and International Trade Fair & Health Exhibition sponsors include: Rwanda Ministry of Health; USAID East Africa (Makerere University Regional Centre for Quality of Care); Population Council; EAC Secretariat; LVBC Secretariat; ECSA-HCS Secretariat; HEALTHY FUTURES Project and QWeCI Project; Sida; WHO and SACIDS.

Those in attendance at the conference also include Hon Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, Minister of Health, Rwanda; Hon. Haji Juma Duni, Minister of Health, Zanzibar, United  Republic of Tanzania; Hon. Monique Mukaruliza, Minister of EAC, Rwanda; Members of the East African Legislative Assembly; Members of the Rwandan Parliament; development partners, researchers and businesspeople, among others.


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