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Promoting health innovation in Nigeria through private sector intervention

By Chioma Obinna

Despite the large number of investments made in Nigeria’s health sector over the past 10 years, the attraction in achieving the desired results of improved health outcomes could be better.

Although healthcare innovations exist within the country, poor capacity/support systems for innovators have been one of the constraints to achieving scale.

A number of innovations have not made valuable or sustainable impact in the health sector due to the lack of enabling systems or programmes. Every year, Nigerians spend an estimated $1 billion  on medical treatment abroad.

This, however, buttresses the need for bold and innovative approaches to identify and support new and existing health programmes that could save a million lives annually.

FORUM: From left: Executive Director, Child Health Advocacy initiative (CHAI), Mrs. Lola Alonge; Chairman, Zenith Bank Plc and Co-chair, Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria (PHN), Mr. Jim Ovia; CEO, PHN, Dr. Muntaqa Umar-Sadiq, and Principal Sub Saharan Africa Coverage Barclay Africa, Mr. Bayo Adeyemi, at the Health Innovation Development Accelerator Programme (HiDAP) held in Lagos weekend.

This need to spur, identify and support innovation in healthcare was recognised by the Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria, PHN, which led to the launch of the Nigeria Health Innovation Marketplace, NHIM.

Since its launch, NHIM has emerged as a critical convergence platform for key actors in Nigeria’s healthcare innovation ecosystem, spurring broad scale innovations in health (ranging from process, technology to new markets and more across the healthcare value chain), supporting social entrepreneurship, and connecting actors in the innovation ecosystem with the intent to leapfrog constrains and accelerate improvement in outcomes.

Chief Executive Officer, PHN Muntaqa Umar-Sadiq  revealed that in 2015, PHN through the innovation marketplace, conducted the first ever in country Health Innovation Challenge, HIC, to identify, reward and support promising innovations addressing key challenges in the health sector – specifically focusing on saving the lives of mothers and children in Nigeria.

“The team identified over 300 applications in its initial assessment stage of which 42 were selected to go through a design thinking and business development boot camp to strengthen the innovators’ capabilities. 11 innovations were selected as finalists of which five emerged as winners receiving grants (ranging from $20,000 – $100,000). In a bid to address the present need for support systems for innovators in healthcare to operate successfully with the country’s unique sector, NHIM designed the Health Innovation Development and Accelerator Program, HiDAP.

“The goal of the HiDAP was to equip the first cohort of graduands from the programme (i. e winners and finalists from the concluded 2015 HIC) with the skills to achieve market readiness and scale to reach more lives and communities.

Through the 12-month bespoke programme, innovators completed leadership, business skills and essential knowledge modules, and received wealth of knowledge from several private sector partners and mentors including Dangote Group, Etisalat, GlaxoSmithKline, GE, Lagos Business School, to succeed and contribute to economic growth,” Muntaqa explained.

In his view, Co-chair, PHN and Chairman, Zenith Bank Group, Jim Ovia said there is continuous need for disruptive innovative ideas that can improve the health system in Nigeria,  hence there is a call on private sector organisations to join/ align with the NHIM.

“The vibrant and fast growing private corporate sector in Nigeria with its business techniques, innovative approaches, influence, resources, capabilities and advocacy platforms can be greatly beneficial to the health system if harnessed strategically and aligned to government’s priorities.

“Initially, I doubted that one million lives are lost due to preventable diseases, but I thank the innovators that came up with the idea and we will continue to make sure that more lives are saved.”


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