Yale doctor on COVID-19 threat to health systems in Sub-Saharan Africa

04/13/20 by Lekha Tlhotlhalemaje

Dr. Elijah Paintsil, Professor of Pediatrics (Infectious Diseases) at the Yale School of Public Health, writes about the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on an already fragile health systems in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) in a Viewpoint article published in the current issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation. Read the full article here

Dr. Paintsil forecasts lessons likely to be learned from the pandemic and outlines the importance of elements of a good healthcare system in dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak in SSA. This includes well-trained healthcare workers, well-maintained infrastructure and a reliable supply of medicines and personal protective equipment. Moreover, all systems must be backed with adequate funding and be based on evidence-based policies. As the virus spreads across the continent, an already fragile healthcare system is being stretched beyond its bounds. For example, SSA has the fewest number of hospital beds per 1000 people in the world, with most countries having <1 hospital bed per 1000 people.

Looking forward, Dr. Paintsil reminds us that “Africa is not exempt from pandemics (either imported to or originating from Africa).” He outlines five lessons for SSA in grappling with pandemics in the future:

  • The need to improve the epidemic preparedness infrastructure and health systems of SSA countries
  • The need for special and urgent campaigns to establish functional infection prevention and control practices in healthcare facilities across Africa
  • The need for Africa and its development partners to take the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) seriously and make commensurate financial commitments to GHSA
  • The need for research and development in SSA – African Governments should make political and substantial funding commitments to research and active surveillance activities that could help to detect and to contain epidemics
  • The need for academic research partnership with intra- and inter-continental universities to define the research agenda and build research culture, infrastructure, and capacity in SSA

Read Dr. Paintsil’s Viewpoint in the Journal of Clinical Investigation:

Read more about Dr. Paintsil’s research: