As a way of ensuring that government meets her commitment towards adequate funding of the health sector, the Partnership Advocacy for Child and Family Health (PACFaH) has urged the media to actively report issues surrounding health budget and finance in the media space.
The request was made by Health Reform Foundation of Nigeria (HERFON) Programme Officer on PACFaH project, Ms.Aanu’ Rotimi while a making presentation on the “ Role of Media In Advocating For Increased Health Sector Budget in Nigeria” during a symposium organised by the Health Writers Association of Nigeria (HEWAN) in Lagos yesterday.
The Partnership for Advocacy in Child and Family Health (PACFaH) project is an innovative social accountability project being implemented through the unique strategy of capacity building for civil society organisations (CSOs) on the demand side and government champions on the supply side to build partnerships to advance child and family health through advocacy.
The project’s top line objective is to improve the accountability of government at the national and state levels to deliver on commitments by increasing health budget, timely expenditure releases, and implementation of policies and guidelines in support of improved child and family health in Nigeria as a result of evidence-based, high-impact advocacy led by coalitions of local CSOs.
In her presentation, Rotimi stated that the media’s power in influencing opinions and behavior as well as ability to inspire public interest through creating awareness around respective issues has a great to play in ensuring that government adequately finance the healthcare sector. Aanu said: “Over the years, evidence has shown that media plays a vital role in mobilising people for national development.
It is the connection between the people and government. Advocating for improved health outcomes is a role for all stakeholders in which health journalists are critical stakeholders.“It is interesting to note the interplay of both intrinsic and extrinsic factors that determines what good health is all about.
Appropriate allocation, prompt release and value for money utilisation of health funds are important, and not just mere reduction in MMR, U5MR or IMR, which although are expected ultimate results, but can be transient till an assured funding, much more transparent utilisation and ownership are available.”She specifically stated that the media should remind government to honour her various commitments on health financing, such as the Abuja Declaration that stated that 15 per cent of the country’s annual budget must be allocated to health, Goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)’s Target 3.c ( Increase substantially health financing),National Health Act that says 1 per cent of the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) should be allocated to the health sector, Nigeria’s commit to the Declaration of African Ministers of Health, Finance, Education, Social Affairs, Local Governments attending the Ministerial Conference on Immunization in Africa, Addis Ababa in 2016 and The London 2012 Family planning (FP) commitment and the costed FP Blueprint. The Programme Officer, however, regretted that health financing issues are not widely covered by the media, adding that health news rarely makes it to the leading headlines or cover page of media houses.According to Aanu, other challenges of health finance reporting in Nigeria include “limited investigation on health sector funding , inadequate reporting on the issue of health finance, media owner’s philosophy towards health reportage,limited experts and interest groups to track and report health outcomes on health financing and limited demand in accountability by the media on health budget” .
She, therefore, urged health journalists to ensure that there is a change on tracking of health budget by “following committed organisations/individuals working on health budget advocacy as partners, investigate on health allocation, releases and utilization, provide a strong rationale for the need to increase attention to health” sector funding.
She added that the needs to “ write or broadcast stories that can enhance funding of the health sector, push for more attention on health funding as it relates to economic development, draw the attention of policy makers and engage constructively and write articles or features that will make health sector funding a priority.”