Tanzania to host East African Community Heart Institute

Tanzania has been picked to host the proposed regional heart institute that will serve the entire East African Community (EAC) population.

The institute will also be elevated to the status of a centre of excellence for skills and tertiary education in medical and health sciences in the bloc.

This was announced on Monday at the start of the first regional meeting by the EAC on operationalisation of the multi-national regional centres of excellence in the sector.

Kenya will host the EAC regional kidney institute while Uganda will be the seat of a similar institution responsible for cancer diseases.

Another proposed body is the EAC regional nutritional sciences institute which will be located in Burundi, the meeting at the EAC headquarters was further informed.

Rwanda will be the headquarters of yet another allied institution that will be responsible for bio-medical engineering, e-Health and health rehabilitation sciences.

The five institutions, besides playing their role in medical treatment and research, will be designated centres of excellence.

'Centres of excellence will provide the region with an opportunity to better confront the unusual burden of disease being faced by its populations,' said EAC deputy secretary general (Productive and Social Sectors) Jesca Eriyo.

She made the remarks when opening the first EAC regional meeting on the Operationalisation of the Multi-National EAC Regional Centres of Excellence for Skills and Tertiary Education in Higher Medical and Health Sciences.

Communicable diseases, nutritional and maternal and child health complications will be among the focal activities of the new institutions, others being rising incidences of noncommunicable diseases.

'The centres will benefit from and contribute towards the on-going regional efforts to harmonise training, practice and licensing of health professionals as well as other aspects of the EAC Common Market Protocol, including the free movement of professionals and services,' Ms Eriyo pointed out.

She urged member countries to invest more money in specialized skills of their health workforce, noting; 'This would enable our member countries to effectively narrow the historical gaps in the health workforce and accurately address our future needs'.

The meeting at the EAC headquarters in Arusha was told of the existing gaps in human resources for health including inadequate numbers and quality of faculty, insufficient and low quality teaching, treatment and research infrastructure and equipment and the requisite facilities.

Speaking at the forum, Dr Caroline Jehu-Appiah, principal economist at the African Development Bank (AfDB), said the project was a testimony of the Bank's continuous cooperation with regional economic communities and the governments of Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania in many development sectors including Health, Education and Social Protection.

'The overall objective of the project is to address shortages in highly skilled professionals in biomedical specialties to enhance East Africa's competitiveness,' she said.

The AfDB official said the second objective of the project was to support the EAC provide overall project coordination, develop regional protocols, undertake labour market analysis and hold annual fora in the target countries.