We must ensure Innovations in the Health Sector address Real Problems – Umar-Sadiq

The Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria (PHN), a non-profit organization has a sustainable platform that combines the strengths of the corporate private sector in Nigeria to partner with government. For the past five years they have been in operation, they have set up the Nigerian Health Innovation Marketplace that has incubated over 40 health innovations, forged private sector partnerships with over 20 states in Nigeria, reached millions of women and children with life-saving commodities by leveraging the excess utility of the corporate private sector and deployed significant impact investments in the health sector. With all these they have demonstrated that this model is a viable tool for addressing the continent’s biggest health challenges.

In an interview with Outrepreneurs at the just concluded Nigeria Innovation Summit, the MD/CEO and founding board member of the Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria, Dr. Muntaqa Umar-Sadiq said the alliance is a private sector led platform, created by business leaders in Nigeria, including Jim Ovia, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, and corporates like Stanbic IBTC Bank, GlaxoSmithKline and Coca-Cola who have come together to create an all-encompassing platform to pool their respective private sector capabilities, resources and expertise to complement government in accelerating improvement in achieving the health sustainable development goals (SDGs)

“The health sector is characterized by suboptimal health outcomes, poor quality of care, and the lack of protection from financial risks. In Nigeria, we have a very complex, dynamic and iterative healthcare system with lots of supply and demand side challenges. We lose nearly a million women and children every year to preventable causes. There are lot of basic issues like malaria, pneumonia and HIV affecting them. Malnutrition, for example, accounts for nearly 50% of the deaths of children under the age of five. Our maternal, infant and neonatal mortality rate is still high compared to other comparable countries so there is a lot to do. But our view is that the private sector has an important role to play in leveraging some of its capabilities and expertise to complement government in addressing these challenges.”

Umar-Sadiq thinks there are several types of innovations prevalent in the health sector today, but the most useful ones have to address real problems in the sector. “The first is that we need to ensure that the innovations address a pre-identified problem. The second is that these innovations are content specific, and third is that they are sustainable. The sort of innovations that are coming up are product innovations, technology innovations, thought innovations, service delivery innovations and manufacturing innovations. I think that the complementarity of these innovations will create the sort of sources of disruption that we need to begin to reach the low level health equilibrium that we have in the health sector.”

PHN’s work is focused on innovation, as they seek to create and scale up the Nigerian Health Innovation Marketplace to identify, nurture and scale up disruptive innovation that can contribute to the government’s ‘Saving a Million Lives Initiative’. The alliance seeks to develop synergies between the needs of the health system and the capabilities of the private sector through partnerships for better mobile health infrastructure, supply chain capabilities and several other needs of the sector. They also help to mobilize the private sector resources to undertake impact investments in the underserved segments of the health sector.

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