Nigerian Minister Pate Aims to Save a Million Lives, Improve Quality of Care

Nigerian Minister Pate Aims to Save a Million Lives, Improve Quality of Care

Dr. Muhammad Ali Pate, the Honorable Minister of State for Health of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Photo credit: Africare.

The future is indeed bright for public health in Nigeria, judging from what Dr. Muhammad Ali Pate, the Honorable Minister of State for Health of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, said at the Africare House in Washington, D.C. on September 21. The event, Innovative Approaches to Expanding Health Care Services, was co-sponsored by Management Sciences for Health (MSH), fhi360, the Anadach Group, and hosted by Africare.

The Hon. Minister Pate presented a sweeping panorama of Nigeria’s current health status and what it must do if it is to make progress toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) by 2015. The Minister stated that he would consider success only if health impact is visible in the results of the next Demographic and Health Survey to be published in 2013.

That leaves barely a year, considering the lead time required.

“Nigeria’s state of health is characterized by poor outcomes and quality and a lack of protection from financial risk,” said Pate. “Nigeria’s health sector has, not surprisingly, underperformed relative to its peers,” such as Egypt, Ghana, and South Africa. To meet its MDG targets, Nigeria needs to accelerate progress, he said.

Dr. Pate showed commitment, realism, and command of the Nigerian demographic and epidemiological landscape. He also listened to ideas from participants. His realism was evidenced by his openness to responding fully to very direct questions and his understanding of the public and private health delivery systems in Nigeria. For example, when asked about the challenge of donor coordination, Dr. Pate said that this is not an easy problem to solve in any setting, let alone in a country as large and as varied as Nigeria.

Nigeria's vision

Nigeria has a bold public health vision comprised of four supporting elements. The vision: “to save one million lives, and improve the quality of care.”

The four supporting elements: expanded provision of primary health care services; emphasis on healthy living and disease prevention; improved quality of care at health facilities; and, finally, reviving the health sector through increased private and public investment.

One of Nigeria’s public health initiatives is defeating polio. Nigeria is engaging with state governors and traditional leaders to increase commitment and advocacy for defeating polio in the country. Despite a 95 percent decrease in the incidence of polio between 2008 and 2010 via oral polio vaccination, Nigeria remains one of only four countries -- and the only one in the African continent -- where this crippling disease has not yet been eliminated. Leadership development, performance management, and decentralized financing structures are among the tools used to achieve results.

One out of every four Africans is Nigerian. Successes or failures in Nigeria’s public health will have immense implications for all of Africa. Nowhere was this more obvious than in the conviction the presenters, and in particular Dr. Pate, demonstrated on the 21st.

Barmak Kusha, MPH, is a Project Support Officer for Health Service Delivery at MSH.


Ahmad Kusha
Excellent report and it is a good rewarding the presentation of a dedicted and honest Doctors such as Dr. Muhammad .

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