The group of illnesses known as neglected tropical diseases continue to strike people across Africa. The diseases are called “neglected” because they don’t receive enough funding, due to the fact that although they damage people, they don’t kill them.
Ethiopia, in partnership with the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia, has a public health training initiative that offers training in how to combat these diseases. Dr. Joyce Murray is the director of the Ethiopia Public Health Training Initiative (EPHTI) for the Carter Center. At a conference in Washington, DC, she spoke about Ethiopia’s effort to solve the shortage of health care providers at the grassroots level. Voice of America English to Africa reporter Cole Mallard covered the event and later telephoned Dr. Murray in Atlanta to find out how the initiative works.
In this second of a five-part series on addressing neglected tropical diseases in Africa, Dr. Murray said the initiative has three goals: 1) to develop materials for universities preparing health professionals. She says the Carter Center has developed and distributed case study teaching booklets and lecture notes throughout Ethiopia. 2) to strengthen faculty teaching skills through workshops. She says over 2500 Ethiopian faculty have been trained in teaching, writing, supervision. 3) to improve the learning environment through the purchase of textbooks, medical journals, computers, lab equipment and teaching aids for the seven universities.
The doctor says the Carter Center began the initiative in 1997 in partnership with the Ethiopian government. President Carter reportedly met Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on an airplane. He mentioned to President Carter that Ethiopia needed to staff 500 primary health care centers being built in rural areas and asked for help in training.
Dr. Murray says the initiative is expected to take up to 12 years. She says to help avoid “brain drain” (in this case, health care professionals and others with specialized training who leave the country for advancement and better positions) incentives are offered, such as the reward of a better assignment following duty in a remote area. She also says graduates of the training program will be offered management positions to encourage them to stay in the country. Dr. Murray says the program was created in such a way that other developing countries can adapt it to meet their own needs. She says the health learning materials are being placed on the Carter Center website so anyone can have access to them. About a third of the material is already posted, and once copyright issues are settled, the remaining material will be posted as well. The Carter Center website is www.cartercenter.org