Abuja, Nigeria – The Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof Ali Pate, underscored the pivotal importance of strategic and accurate data in promoting health outcomes and strengthening Nigeria’s economic value chain during a strategic retreat of the National Assembly Health Committees. This two-day retreat, organized by the Legislative Network for Universal Health Coverage in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, the Development Research and Projects Centre, the World Health Organization, and other development partners, was themed “Setting a legislative health agenda towards strengthening Nigeria’s primary health care system and health institutions for UHC and resilience.”
Prof Ali Pate, who was represented by Dr. Chris Isokpunwu, the Director of Planning, Research, and Statistics, highlighted the critical role that data plays in making informed decisions and crafting effective healthcare policies. He explained, “We want to strengthen governance, improve population health outcomes, focus on improving the economic value chain for health, as well as public health security, and all of these are all galvanized by data because whatever decision you want to take, if you have the right kind of information and data from a quality source, then you are likely to get it right.”
Pate provided an illustrative example of how data can be utilized effectively. He explained, “For instance, if you know that 18 percent of children have not received vaccination, your data would also point to where these children are, so you know how to budget, how to allocate resources, and how to target interventions effectively.” He also emphasized the Federal Ministry of Health’s authority as the authentic source for health data in Nigeria, encouraging the use of their data for policy development and decision-making.
Dr. Stanley Ukpai, the Director of the Development Research and Projects Centre (dRPC), described the retreat as an opportunity for legislators, especially those serving on health committees, to gain an in-depth understanding of the challenges within the healthcare sector. Ukpai stated, “This is a good example of what continuity should be, and it serves as a launchpad for consolidating the gains that the previous administration has achieved, particularly in reducing maternal mortality and neonatal mortality.”
Dr. Ipalibo Banigo, Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, discussed the core objectives of the retreat, emphasizing that it aims to enlighten the principal officers of the National Assembly about the critical challenges facing the health sector and the efforts being made to enhance health outcomes and achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC). Banigo pointed out the vital role played by the legislature in ensuring national development and policy implementation, underscoring its significance.
Banigo assured that the activities of the legislative network for UHC would strengthen collaboration between the legislature, the executive branch, ministries, departments, agencies, health institutions, donor agencies, and development partners with health agendas as a top priority. She expressed hope that the retreat would bridge knowledge gaps, improve communication, and enhance interagency collaboration in legislative functions, ultimately leading to the establishment of collective legislative health objectives for the next four years.
The retreat is expected to yield a series of successful outcomes, including potential improvements in budgetary allocation for health and other significant advancements in the healthcare sector. The collective efforts of the National Assembly and its health committees, in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, are set to fortify Nigeria’s healthcare system, foster resilience, and contribute to improving public health outcomes and economic growth.
In a rapidly evolving world, data-driven decision-making has become more critical than ever. It is not only the lifeblood of the healthcare sector but also a powerful catalyst for economic growth and resilience. By recognizing data’s paramount importance, the National Assembly’s health committees, in collaboration with key stakeholders, are well-positioned to set a course for a healthier and more prosperous Nigeria.