Johannesburg – A high-level conference in Lusaka, Zambia, has focused on common symptoms in women and children.
With a focus on heartburn and acid reflux in pregnancy and fever in children, Zambia’s first Healthcare for Women and Children Conference 2017 was staged at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Lusaka last week.
Zambia, with the 4th-highest fertility rate in the world at 5.28 births per woman, also has an exceptionally young population, with around half of citizens under the age of 15, according to the 2013-14 Zambia Demographic and Health Survey (ZDHS). Malaria is a major public health problem in Zambia and has long been a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the country.
In his opening address, Reckitt Benckiser (RB) African Expansion Director Sachin Budhraja, said RB believes that their brands have a purpose in Africa, and cited the company’s vision, “Our vision is a world where people are healthier and live better. Our purpose is to make a difference by giving people innovative solutions for healthier lives and happier homes.” Budhraja further mentioned that RB are committed to improving healthcare in Africa, with a particular focus on the health of women and children. RB’s commitment is evident in the three programmes already successfully launched in Zambia, namely, Mom’s Against Malaria (Mortein initiative launched in 2012), New Mom Programme (Dettol initiative launched in 2014), and Mum-2-Mum (Dettol/ Gaviscon/ Mortein initiative launched in 2016).
The conference assessed the current diagnosis and treatment of heartburn during pregnancy in Zambia, global best practice and the application of these principles to the Zambian market, the treatment of pain and fever in children, current South African Fever Guidelines for children and the potential development of appropriate guidelines in Zambia.
Speaking at the event, Amos Chanda, spokesperson for Zambian President Edgar Lungu, said the government had a particular interest in the health of women and children, as well as in maternal healthcare, as part of its overall aims to advance public health and reduce the cost of healthcare delivery. He noted the government’s concern about the prevalence of malaria and diarrhoeal diseases; and its focus on primary healthcare. “Platforms such as [this conference], where there is cross learning and sharing of ideas between nurses, doctors and pharmaceutical persons are very welcome to government because they help us prevent and reduce the incidence of sickness,” he said.
Speaking at the conference, Dr Aaron Mujajati, President of Zambian Medical Association, welcomed the cooperation between the public and private sector in arranging the conference. Dr. Jörg Reichenberger, an international opinion leader on Gastroenterology from Netcare Unitas Hospital in Centurion, South Africa, outlined the physiology of heartburn and acid reflux and effective treatment regimens, in his talk Heartburn & Acid Reflux – Optimising First Line Therapy Treatment options for acid reflux.
Professor Robin Green from the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, presented on the guidelines for treating pain and fever in children, saying there were expectations for the collaborative development of treatment guidelines.
The milestone meeting, hosted by RB, marked the beginning of future initiatives in which RB hopes to work closely with selected national healthcare leaders to improve healthcare and make a difference by giving people innovative solutions for healthier lives and happier homes.
RB SVP Regional Director Ata Safdar acknowledged Zambia’s high birth rate and therefore the importance of maternal and infant health in the country.
Safdar said: “[RB] would like to approach the government to see how we can partner on health and hygiene initiatives, malaria in particular. We also do in different African countries: we partner on sanitation, basic hygiene, children’s hygiene and education; so in the coming days I do hope that we will be able to expand our footprint.” RB’s global focus on health, hygiene and home is particularly important for pan-African markets where there is a high rate of deaths caused by Malaria, HIV/AIDS and diarrhoea.
In his closing address, Dr John Musuku from the Paediatric Association of Zambia mentioned the importance of initiatives like these in helping to prevent disease. He also invited RB to support some of their other health initiatives in the country