Our 2019 Annual Conference celebrated the strength, dedication and optimism of the global health community. Over two days, 300 delegates and 80 speakers deliberated the contradictions and challenges faced as we work towards quality Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and the transformational role Health Partnerships are playing in ensuring health for all. This year we were pleased to welcome more speakers from across Africa and Asia than ever before, championing the flow of ideas and knowledge around the world.
Built around four streams – Responsibility, Collaboration, Innovation and Equity – the Conference challenged, inspired and strengthened our thinking! Prolific speakers including Dr Shams Syed, Coordinator of the WHO Quality Systems and Resilience Unit, Joanna Keating, Head of International Development at the Scottish Government, and Dr Keith Ridge, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer at NHS England, provided us with an opportunity to determine how Health Partnerships can best contribute to healthcare provision both overseas and in the UK.
This year’s Conference shone a spotlight on the voices of African women. Roda Ali Ahmed, Lecturer at the University of Hargeisa, Vicky Opia, Senior Palliative Care Nurse and Executive Director of the Adjumani Peace Hospice, and Edna Adan Ismail, Founder and Director of the Edna Adan University Hospital, captivated audiences as they reflected on their contributions to health systems strengthening and health worker empowerment.
What does gender equality mean to me? It means I can walk the path in life that I intend to without being restricted. – Roda Ali Ahmed
Edna Adan took centre-stage as she shared her awe-inspiring struggle to rebuild the Somaliland health system through the Edna Adan University Hospital. The first midwife to practice in Somaliland, Edna recounted her journey to become a leader, teacher and formidable campaigner for women’s health, leaving the audience on their feet at the end of Day 1.
The more they said I couldn’t do it, the more I had to go on. – Edna Adan Ismail
The championing of nurses and midwives was another highlight of this year’s Conference. As Dr Gill Richardson, Assistant Director of Policy, Research and International Development at Public Health Wales concluded, “We will never truly achieve UHC if we don’t empower the role of the nurse and the midwife.” With clinical nurses, adult and child nurses, midwives, palliative care nurses and representatives from Nursing Now both on stage and in the audience, the conference celebrated the diverse range of health professionals that contribute to quality healthcare in the UK and in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
On Day 2, Vicky Opia spoke with passion and determination on the leading role played by nurses in Leaving No One Behind, while reminding us of the strength in partnership.
You need someone to walk beside you through it all. – Vicky Opia
The value of collaborative learning was captured in a short film premiered on Day 2, produced by Medical Aid Films, the footage documented the experience of Mr Ryan Ghita, Surgical Registrar and THET Innovation Fellow, as he travelled to Tanzania to develop low cost hernia mesh with a team from the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre – an innovation that could save the NHS more than £2 million per year. Layla McCay, Director of International Relations at the NHS Confederation, stressed the potential for mutual benefit if we increase investment in LMIC-based innovations such as this; a view shared by Dr Matt Harris, Clinical Senior Lecturer in Public Health at Imperial College London, who highlighted the need to overcome bias and harness the value of frugal innovation if we are to change the paradigm in global health.
The global flow of knowledge, skills and ideas has been a defining feature of human progress…the health systems of today represent a culmination of centuries of global innovation flow. – Dr Shams Syed
Across all streams, the unmistakable value of long-term partnership remained constant, epitomised by the twenty-year partnership-turned-friendship between our founder, Professor Sir Eldryd Parry, and Mr Andy Leather – two pillars of global health. In 1997, while working as a Consultant Surgeon at King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Andy began travelling to Ethiopia to train health officers to undertake surgical procedures. As the pair shared the stage, Andy explained that it was during this time that his life-long involvement in global health and long-standing partnership with Eldryd began. In the early 2000s, Eldryd and Andy developed a health partnership between King’s College and Somaliland’s first maternity hospital: the newly built Edna Adan Maternity Hospital.
Throughout the Conference, we gained insights into the magnitude of this ongoing partnership. Among the first midwives trained by Edna was Roda Ali Ahmed who went on to establish Somaliland’s first nursing school. Together, Roda and Edna delivered a three-year nursing diploma programme to a class of 30 young women who had returned from refugee camps after the civil war. Among those was Nura Aided Ibrahim, now the Country Director of THET’s Somaliland Programme. If ever we needed a reminder of the transformative power of collaboration, this is it!
The Conference focussed our attention on the continued need for partnership, research and practical interventions to advance our progress towards quality UHC, whilst highlighting the growing contribution of the UK to realising health for all.
The energy, dedication and enthusiasm witnessed during this year’s Conference has refreshed our sense of optimism for the future of global health and for the attainment of quality UHC!
For further information on the Conference and additional content please visit: https://www.thet.org/get-involved/2019-annual-conference/