A view of Kabul as we take off on our way to Beijing
BY KOJO OSEI-BONSU, DIRECTOR OF FHS AFGHANISTAN PROJECT, JOHNS HOPKINS BLOOMBERG SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH
I’ve just arrived in Beijing, China, after a long journey from Kabul, Afghanistan. To say it’s a change of pace is an understatement. The sheer scale of the city is impressive – if a bit daunting – as is the 2nd Global Symposium on Health Systems Research, which I’m here for. I hear there are more than 1,850 participants, which sounds like a lot to me, but is but a mere drop in the ocean of Beijing.
Back in Afghanistan, the team I coordinate works in partnership with the Community Based Health Care (CBHC) unit of the Afghan Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on a project to pilot community scorecards as a community engagement strategy for improving utilization and coverage of health care. Initial findings from the research we are conducting are inspiring to the team and our Principle Investigator, Dr Anbrasi Edward, and we are looking towards the scale up of the community scorecard under the auspices of the CBHC with a good amount of optimism.
At the symposium, I will be presenting a poster detailing our initial stakeholder analysis as well as touching on highlights from the implementation of the community scorecard. Dr Arwal, the director of the CBHC department (who I have travelled with to Beijing) will be one of three panelists on the MSH convened panel “Getting to Universal Health Care in Fragile States: How Community Health Workers Contribute to Stronger Health Systems”. Dr Arwal will give an overview of the CBHC and the work our two bodies are doing together in Afghanistan.
The poster session will be a first for me, though I’m lucky to have practiced such an activity in one of my epidemiology classes at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The poster presentation was the relatively easy practical element of the aforementioned epidemiology class, which just goes to reinforce a conclusion I came to a long time ago: the tougher classes are the ones that equip students best for work outside the classroom!
One of the main objectives of education is to train minds to enable them to operate at the frontiers of knowledge. Much of the work I am involved in in Afghanistan is, I believe, at the frontier of knowledge – the adaptation of the balanced scorecard to a nation’s health system and the use of the community scorecard, adapted to suit a post conflict setting – and I am excited to share our experiences and findings in the poster session and in informal sessions at the symposium.
I am also excited about the opportunity the symposium presents for learning from other health systems researchers all over the globe. I will be keeping an eye out for the panels, presentations and poster sessions that detail innovations. This symposium holds the potential to unmask research findings, as well as encourage further research, that will be the mainstay of health systems of the future.