On World Health Day, 7 April 2021, Dr. Richard Konteh of the All People’s Congress Party (APC), an aspirant for the party’s leadership and presidential candidate for the 2023 elections hints on his vision for a new approach to better health in Sierra Leone during a casual chat.
“Good health is fundamental to all our lives. We all treasure our own health, and the health of our families and friends. Good health is the bedrock on which we build strong families, strong communities and a strong country,” Dr. Konteh said.
“In our country today, too many people suffer from poor health. Too many people are ill for much of their lives. Too many people die too young from illnesses which are preventable. The lack of good leadership and a vision for a better country led to our unpreparedness for diseases like Ebola and COVID-19 resulting in unnecessary suffering, avoidable illness, and premature death. And this harms our society and economy,” the APC Presidential aspirant continues.
“Many Sierra Leoneans are realizing the value of better health. Many already take exercise seriously, eat properly, and refrain from those habits that cause poor health. Improving health means tackling the causes of poor health. We know that the causes of ill-health are many: a complex interaction between personal, social, economic, and environmental factors. We need a new approach to better health,” Dr. Konteh said as he paused to recollect his thoughts. “With my leadership, we will break from the past. We will move beyond the old arguments and tired debates which have characterized so much consideration of public health issues, including those who say that nothing can be done to improve the health of the poorest, and those who say that individuals are solely to blame for their own ill-health. I believe that by working together, we can tackle poor health, and achieve the aim of better health for everyone, and especially for the least fortunate,” Dr. Konteh adds.
To build a better nation, we must start by combating the key killers in our country - poverty, cancer, heart disease, stroke, road accidents, mental illness, and environmental disasters. And individuals taking action for themselves and their families are central to this. Communities working together can offer real help. And there is a vital role for the Government. Not as the so-called “new direction” government in action. But a Government that will address the big issues which affect our health, such as housing, jobs, education, climate change and disease control.
Dr. Konteh’s new approach to better health in Sierra Leone have two goals in mind: (1) to improve the health of the population as a whole by increasing the length of people's lives and the number of years people spend free from illness; and (2) to improve the health of the worst off in society and to narrow the health gap - in other words “Affordable Healthcare for All.” Dr. Konteh’s plan is to have specialist hospitals to address all the key illnesses that need referrals, in addition to enhanced preventive measures (PHC) and improved water supply to prevent water borne diseases.
Although this new approach to better health in Sierra Leone was talked about in a casual chat, if given more consideration, it will be a significant step towards better health for all Sierra Leoneans. It will set out a new, modern approach to public health - an approach which refuses to accept that there is no role for anything other than individual improvement, or that only Government can do something. This is an approach that no Government in Sierra Leone has adopted before. “I am determined that the next APC Government will meet what we see as our clear responsibilities and play our part in improving the health of everyone in Sierra Leone,” Dr. Konteh ends with a broad smile.