The SPEED Project Organizes a successful International Symposium on UHC




In 2015, the global community adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with 169 indicators. SDG3 entails ensuring good health and wellbeing for all at all ages. Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is framed under SDG3 along with other targets for health. Goal 3 also addresses all major priorities in health and introduces a broader agenda for promoting good health, reducing health risks and investing in the determinants of good health and well-being.

Successfully pursuing this broad agenda requires partnerships for policy actions in a complex and increasingly multisectoral arena, with legitimate role-bearers ranging from sectors such as; Health, Finance, Education, Local Government, Gender and Labor, Housing, Social Development and among development partners, private sector and civil society organizations including the media. These partnerships need to embrace “whole-of-government” and “whole-of-society” approaches, where efforts to promote good health and well-being are mainstreamed in policies and programs of all actors. Therefore, the need to pool efforts and leverage collaborations and partnerships to advance good health and wellbeing is an urgent call.

Upon this background, from the 27-29 August 2019, Makerere – Supporting Policy Engagement for Evidence-Based Decision Making (SPEED) for UHC in Uganda project, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, Uganda, hosted an International Symposium on Partnerships, Policy, and Systems Developments for Universal Health Coverage. The symposium theme was “Partnerships for Health Improvements across Governments, and Societies at Local, National and Global Levels”. The overall aim of the symposium was to critically examine the developments in partnerships for achieving UHC, and share experiences, lessons and reflections across countries and stakeholders, so as to build consensus on priority and plausible policies, partnerships, and systems developments required to effectively advance the agenda for UHC, good health and wellbeing in the region.

From left-Prof Fredrick Makumbi – Deputy Dean MakSPH, Prof Charles Ibingira– Principal- MakCHS, Dr Joyce Moriku KaducuMinister of State for Primary Health Care, Prof Barnabas Nawangwe– Vice Chancellor Makerere University and Mr. Thomas Tiedemann – Head of section for Governance and Human rights – EU Delegation in Uganda at the official opening of the UHC symposium on August 27

Key facts about the symposium

Symposium participants included members of the research community, policymakers, Development Partners, Practitioners, civil society, NGOs and students. Over 250 participants came from 10 countries – Ghana, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, UK, Belgium, Malawi, South Africa, India, and Uganda. Up to 64 abstract presentations and 7 plenary sessions were covered, broadly addressing the thematic area for improving partnerships in policy and systems development for UHC advancement. Participants shared evidence for workable and sustainable approaches to working collaboratively and the critical need for better mechanisms of coordination.

Hon. Dr. Joyce Moriku Kaducu-Minister of State in charge of Primary Health Care, representing the Prime Minister of Uganda, officially opening the symposium.

Unlike the previous symposia, this year’s symposium had a special session for youth. This was organized under the theme “Nothing For Us, Without Us”. It was an interesting moment to hear the views of the Ugandan youths given the fact that they form the largest share of country’s population (77%). In their discussion the youth were concerned about mental health and the influence from new innovations and technology especially social media.  Whereas the youths from the urban settings appreciated the role of social media in contributing to their health and wellbeing, their counterparts from rural areas had contrary views. As countries work to achieve UHC, involvement of the youths in the planning and execution of the programmes is critical.

A participant contributing to the discussion on the youth panel

Major observations:

A number of observations were made on the subthemes of the symposium; these include;

  1. There is a need to explain the concept of UHC to different stakeholders. It was established that there exit misconceptions about UHC amongst many stakeholders.  Without a common understanding of the concept itself, convening and working together may be complex and compromised.
  2. Participants acknowledged that health should be looked at in a broader perspective beyond a narrow focus on hospital care and health services. Efforts in pursuit of UHC must, therefore, focus on the social determinants of health through multisectoral action to achieve good health and wellbeing. For example, water and sanitation, nutrition, environmental protection, roads and road safety, individual and household incomes, education, among others.
  3. Awareness of the interrelationships between Primary Health Care and UHC was pointed out as being vital to ensure a people-centered and integrated health systems that put communities as not only users of health services but also with core responsibilities to undertake to improve their own health.

The deliberations and key points that emerged from each day of the symposium were summarised as daily bulletin which can be accessed here ( Day one bulletin , Day two bulletin  and Day  three bulletin ).  During the symposium, videos showing some of the work done by the SPEED were shared project.  1)Documentary on UHC, 2) Health Systems cost-saving attributable to operation Fika Salam 3) Harnessing the population dividend in Uganda.

Some of the participants who attended the second day of the symposium

From left, Dr. Juliet Nabyonga-WHO Afro Regional Office, Prof Bart Criel-ITM- Antwerp, Dr. Henry Mwebesa– Ag.  Director-General Health Services at the   MoH, Prof Charles Hongoro– HSRC- South Africa and Ms.Robinah Kaitiritimba-UNHCO on the panel discussing  Policy and systems development for  UHC partnerships. 

A group photo taken at the closure of the symposium