The Gro Brundtland week and award ceremony was held in Taiwan from 11th – 17th March, 2017. It is supported by a 2014 Tang prize award to Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, for her leadership in promoting sustainable development for the benefit of humanity.
The objectives of the week are to support public health and sustainable development in developing countries; and to promote involvement of younger women researchers from developing countries in the issues of sustainable development and equitable health systems.
I was honoured to receive the 2017 Gro Brundtland Award, along with four other young, dynamic female scientists. It was an excellent opportunity to meet inspiring and successful women who came together for the week, including: the key note speakers, award recipients, local invited speakers and the organizers. The general organization, speakers, panel discussions and social activities arranged throughout the week were outstanding.
My contribution to the Gro Brundtland week was to bring the African perspective to the discussion on sustainable development. Both health and development indicators in sub Saharan Africa are very poor, with nearly half (48.4%) of the people in the region still living in extreme poverty (under US$ 1.25 a day). Further, the region is experiences the highest burden of disease and preventable deaths, and is susceptible to various shocks including conflict and disasters. There is also gross inequity in access to health care.
How then, should sub-Saharan Africa approach sustainable development? How can equitable health systems be achieved here? While there are no easy answers to these questions, the Gro Brundtland week allows a platform to discuss various dimensions of the long answer. Moving into the next decade, and underpinned by the Sustainable Development Goals, new approaches and methods will be necessary to engage communities and all sectors to collectively identify, create, and implement lasting solutions to the complex health and development challenges that currently exist.
One approach is through using community based social innovation. This is a unique approach that “engages communities in grassroots actions to develop solutions in collaboration with other actors”. Social innovation is inherently bottom-up, driven by communities, for the benefit of communities. It is increasingly recognized as a concrete opportunity, and an often inexpensive approach, to enhance Universal Health Coverage particularly through advancing integrated patient centered health services, and contributing to lasting solutions. The benefits of community based social innovation can similarly be reaped in other social sectors and the economic sector.
Makerere University has partnered with the Social Innovation in Health Initiative (SIHI), in a research collaboration, to catalyze social innovation that is driven by communities, for the benefit of communities in Uganda. The research collaboration is funded by the World Health Organization Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Disease (TDR).
For more information on the SIHI visit: http://socialinnovationinhealth.org/
For more information on the Gro Brundtland week visit: http://brundtlandweek.web2.ncku.edu.tw