The United Nations General Assembly has set for the world an ambitious target of achieving Universal Health Coverage by 2030.
Dubbed UHC2030, the goal is to ensure that all citizens of the world have access to health services, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential healthcare services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines.
The Civil Society Engagement Mechanism for UHC2030 (CSEM), a broad civil society constituency of the International Health Partnership for UHC2030 who wants to see the realisation of this goal across the globe, have appointed Ghana’s Dr Maxwell Antwi as one of the 5-member Advisory Group (regional representatives) to co-represent Africa and the Caribbean.
Maxwell Antwi, the Country Director of PharmAccess Foundation, an international development organisation with a digital agenda dedicated to connecting more people to better healthcare in Africa, also serves as a member of the Health Sector Working Group of the Health Ministry.
He is expected to contribute his expertise and international experience to achieve the ambitious UHC2030 target set by the multistakeholder partnership co-hosted by the World Bank and the World Health Organisation.
According to a member of the Advisory Group, Dr Maxwell Antwi, the Group’s goal is to coordinate health system strengthening efforts globally and mobilise civil society voices to position marginalised and vulnerable people at the center of health policies.
The Advisory Group is tasked to mobilise political momentum and resources to support UHC2030 and make it the number one priority for all countries globally.
Many countries are spending very little of their annual budgets on health. Despite health insurance schemes in countries worldwide, many ailments and healthcare needs are not covered, making quality healthcare almost the preserve of only the rich with deep pockets and those who can afford to pay out of pocket.
“The ability of the world to come around and ensure that all people, irrespective of socioeconomic class can have timely access to quality health services irrespective of ability to pay at the point of use, has been touted as a game changer.” Dr. Antwi said.
Although he admits that the Advisory Group’s work is herculean, Dr Maxwell Antwi is of the view that with broad base support, it is possible to get all the cost for healthcare around the world covered without the need to pay at the point of use.
“To be able to achieve Universal Health Coverage by 2030, we must first coordinate efforts at strengthening health systems across nations, continents and globally. The second key component is to gather political momentum for this,” Maxwell Antwi stressed.
“How can we at the national, continental and global level make sure that health becomes the number one ticket or issue on every political party campaign, for every election and for every politician”, he quizzed.
According to him, health must be placed at the top of the agenda of countries and not as an afterthought. He said, “We must position health not as a subsidiary but as the main thing to achieve. People must be alive to participate in planting for food and jobs, people must be alive to enjoy free SHS, people must be alive to drive on the roads if we develop road infrastructure.”
The Advisory Group is tasked also with ensuring that countries spend enough of annual national budget on health. In April 2001 for instance, the African Union countries met in Abuja and pledged to set a target of allocating at least 15% of their annual national budget to improve the health sector and urged donor countries to scale up support.
Years later, only one African country has reached this target. Twenty-six countries had increased the proportion of government expenditures allocated to health, and eleven had reduced it. For the remaining nine countries in Africa, there has not been a significant upward or downward trend.
“At the national and continental level, are we achieving our Abuja Declaration of 15% of the national budget assigned to health? Ghana has become a shining example in Africa in prioritizing health, but we are not there yet. We are currently doing 9-10% on the annual national budget for health, but how can we encourage African and also Caribbean governments to dedicate at least 15% of our national budget to health and how transparent and accountable are our health expenditures to make sure that people feel there’s value for money for every cedi, shilling, naira or CFA spent on health in Africa and the Caribbean,” Dr Antwi explained.
Dr Maxwell Antwi, who is also a member of the World Health Organisation Roster of Experts on Digital Health, believes there must also be transparency in utilising these resources to engender trust and confidence among the populace.
Before joining PharmAccess Group, in multiple roles, first as Senior Quality Advisor and later as the Program Manager for the Medical Credit Fund and SafeCare and now as the Country Director, Maxwell Antwi had worked for over a decade in senior capacities within and outside of the Ghana Health Service as a Specialist Obstetrician-Gynecologist, Healthcare Manager and a Public Health Professional.
He currently leads a highly motivated team working with partners in Africa to mobilise private and public resources to get more money into the health system while measuring and improving healthcare quality.
His ambition is on how digital technology (especially mobile technology) can be a global enabler for forging partnerships, enhancing health regulation, stimulating health financing, and supporting the empowerment of individuals to access quality health care to improve health outcomes.
“It looks daunting, it looks insurmountable, but if decades ago people tried to land a human being on the moon, and eventually they got there, and others are trying to get to Mars, and they are working at it, I don’t think Africa and Caribbean have an excuse for not aiming at timely access to quality health services for all its citizens and that people do not die because they do not have money in their pocket to pay for healthcare at the point of use”, an optimistic Dr Maxwell Antwi said about his new role.