An editorial in The Lancet identifies glimmers of hope—as well as the worries—in tackling problems related to training and retaining medical staff in Africa. The Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI) held its first annual symposium on 7 March 2011, bringing together 240 people from 30 medical schools in Africa and 20 institutions in the U.S., all committed to improving medical education in sub-Saharan Africa. Soon thereafter, the African Society for Laboratory Medicine met for the first time, in Ethiopia, and is undertaking the coordination of top quality laboratory services across Africa.
MEPI's aim is to turn around medical education in sub-Saharan Africa, starting with US$130 million in grants to medical schools in the region. It has given 11 five-year programmatic grants of up to $2 million per year to partnerships between African grantees and other medical schools in Africa or the U.S.
The African Society for Laboratory Medicine plans to professionalize services, train staff, and create meaningful accreditation to revitalize laboratory services.
Some quick facts cited in the editorial that convey the enormity of the challenge:
• Africa has only 2-3 healthcare workers per 1000 citizens, compared with 18-19/1000 in Europe, but has to deal with 24 percent of the total global disease burden (WHO’s World Health Report, 2006).
• Within five years of graduation, about one in five African physicians migrate to high-income country (International Organization for Migration, 2005).
• Absence of faculty and infrastructure, and retention of graduates are the major problems; and there are also shortcomings with accreditation, postgraduate education, and coordination between ministries of health and education (Sub-Saharan African Medical Schools Study, 2011).
Reference: The Lancet, volume 377, issue 9771, p. 1047, 26 March 2011
Click here to read the complete editorial.