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WORLD HEALTH DAY 2024: Our commitment to health as a right for all

April 5, 2024 11:00hrs
WORLD HEALTH DAY 2024: Our commitment to health as a right for all
IHI International World Health Day 2024 poster. Graphic by IFAKARA Communications

As the globe unites to celebrate World Health Day on April 7, 2024, under the powerful theme "My Health, My Right," this day serves as a poignant reminder of the fundamental principle that access to high-quality health care is not a privilege but a universal right.

The theme sheds light on the urgent need to dismantle the barriers to health services faced by individuals around the world. These barriers, ranging from socioeconomic disparities to geographical challenges, deny millions the fundamental right to health.

This year, the focus is on access to health services, education, and information, alongside ensuring environmental determinants of health such as safe drinking water, clean air, and quality housing are accessible to all.

Voices from Ifakara
In alignment with World Health Day 2024, Ifakara Health Institute is proud to feature a series of insights from our team of dedicated scientists and health experts. These reflections will delve into the significance of this year's theme and explore health as a fundamental right.

Our Chief Executive Director, Dr. Honorati Masanja, emphasized that the theme 'My Health, My Right “...resonates deeply with our vision at Ifakara Health Institute, “A healthy and empowered population with access to evidence-based health services and solutions”.

Our work in rabies
Kennedy Lushasi, a scientist on the Rabies Research Team at Ifakara, emphasizes their unified mission to champion health equity and ensure universal access to life-saving care. He highlights how rabies disproportionately impacts disadvantaged communities, especially the impoverished and children under 15, underscoring the severe health inequalities they face. 

The high cost of preventive measures, like post-exposure prophylaxis for bite victims, places a devastating financial burden on the most vulnerable, often resulting in tragic deaths.

Yet, we refuse to accept this injustice. At IHI, we believe that every individual, regardless of their socioeconomic status, deserves equal access to health care. That's why we're tirelessly working alongside the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Livestock Development to secure human rabies vaccines and organize mass dog vaccination campaigns, to make preventive measures against rabies freely available to all Tanzanians.

Our efforts aren't just about combating a deadly disease; they're about upholding the fundamental rights of our fellow citizens to live healthy, fulfilling lives. Together, we can create a future where no one suffers needlessly from preventable diseases like rabies.

Advocating for newborns 

Tanzania has one of the highest numbers of newborn deaths; 75% of newborn deaths are preventable—however, little attention is given to neonatal deaths. 

Ifakara alongside the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with both local and international stakeholders in putting more effort toward improving the quality of care for small and sick newborns and reducing neonatal mortality.

Senior Research Scientist and Newborn Essential Solutions and Technologies (NEST360) Project Leader Donat Shamba stresses the severity of the situation by stating ‘‘As we improve the quality of care for newborns, it’s also high time to advocate for a move towards National Health insurance coverage for newborn babies.” 

This comprehensive approach seeks to safeguard the lives of Tanzania's most vulnerable citizens from the very start.

Ending TB through innovation and collaboration

Dr. Jerry Hella, a dedicated public health expert, works with the Tuberculosis Research Group at Ifakara. His work covers a broad range, from practical interventions to studying TB's basic epidemiology. Additionally, he heads the Biomedical Research and Clinical Trials at Ifakara. Dr. Hella is a strong advocate for enhancing TB diagnosis techniques to enable early detection, ensure patients have access to effective treatments, and reduce the financial burden on them. This is done by closely collaborating with the Ministry of Health, local health facilities, and both local and international partners to achieve these goals.

He is convinced that through collective effort, we can reduce TB fatalities and aim for a TB-free world.

According to WHO, in 2022, TB caused 1.3 million deaths, including 167,000 people who also had HIV. It is the world's second deadliest infectious disease after COVID-19, even more so than HIV/AIDS. However, TB can be prevented and cured, which is why there's a big push to fight this disease more effectively. Learn more about this here.

Our efforts in HIV/TB healthcare

Drs. Ezekiel Luoga and Robert Ndege, research scientists at the Chronic Diseases Clinic of Ifakara (CDCI) – a model clinic for HIV/TB care in rural Tanzania, advocate for equitable healthcare access by empowering communities.

Head of CDCI, Dr. Luoga emphasizes that “Good health is the greatest wealth that human beings can have in life. Let us be a source of good health – physically, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually – for everyone around us. When aware of these rights, one must do what is right with passion to attain it.”

A Clinician at CDCI, Dr. Ndege states, "The right to health extends beyond mere access to healthcare services. Empowering individuals with knowledge of health determinants is essential for fostering a thriving society.”

In their roles as Clinicians at the CDCI, Drs. Luoga and Ndege provide HIV/TB care to both inpatients and outpatients across the extensive rural areas of Kilombero, Ulanga, and Maliyni districts, according to Tanzania's National guidelines.

Established in 2005, the clinic operates within St. Francis Referral Hospital (SFRH) in Ifakara, Tanzania. Initially created to support the Tanzanian National AIDS Control Programme during the HIV pandemic peak, CDCI's scope has expanded to provide comprehensive care for all HIV patients, including pregnant and non-pregnant adults, as well as HIV-exposed and infected children.  Additionally, TB care and the management of non-communicable diseases coexisting with HIV have been integrated over time. Learn more about the CDCI here.

We invite you to join us in this global movement to affirm health as a human right. Stay connected with us through our social media platforms and our website as we share valuable insights and stories highlighting the critical need for health equity.

Together, we can make a difference in the lives of millions by advocating for policies and practices that ensure health for all, irrespective of their background, location, or economic status.

This World Health Day, let us unite in the belief that health is a right, not a privilege.

For more information on our World Health Day click here.