The Young Professionals Chronic Diseases Network (YP-CDN) organized a Non-communicable Disease (NCD) Symposium to launch the NextGen Leaders for NCDs East Africa Workshop -- a training program in collaboration with RTI International and the University of Nairobi to prepare the next generation of NCD leaders in health policy and advocacy, on September 9th, 2016 at the University of Nairobi, Kenya. The main thematic areas covered at the symposium included - NCDs landscape in East Africa, Concerns and priorities of youth across the East African Region, Solutions to improve availability and affordability of essential medicines for NCDs, and Financing for NCDs in East Africa.
“If we want to change the NCD landscape in Africa, we need to start with ourselves”. - Dr. Joseph Kibachio, Director of NCDs, Ministry of Health Kenya
“Financing for NCDs is a very important donor issue”. - Dr. Rachel Nugent, Vice President (NCDs), RTI International
“We need political will and commitment to fight NCDs”. - Emma Wanyonyi, International Institute For Legislative Affairs Kenya
Cyril Abwoga, Nairobi Chapter Member, YP-CDN Kenya
The Next Gen Workshop on NCDs in Nairobi, Kenya from September 9-11 was a phenomenal experience. The quantity, quality, and mode of delivery of the content was perfect in enabling me to become a better global citizen and advocate. It exposed me to the world of global advocacy and helped me learn how to approach challenging situations relating to advancing solutions to tackle NCDs. As a young individual in Kenya, the skills I was able to acquire were invaluable. There are many aspects of NCDs--for example, access to medicines, access to services, education--that we would like to make our government in Kenya aware of. However, approaching policy makers and making them pay attention to these public health concerns is never easy.
Indeed, how you package and deliver the message plays a big part in drawing the policy makers' attention to the matter. Through this training, I have learned that what people perceive as “small” does in fact matter. From following the levels of hierarchy, to respecting that secretary and even the cleaner--all of these small and big steps are equally important and vital. They play a crucial part in one trying to push for an agenda--in this case, reducing the burden of disease in Africa.
My favorite session of the workshop was the 60 second sound bites, where one had exactly 60 seconds to pitch a proposal policy to Dr. Kibachio, the Head of the NCD division in the Ministry of Health in Kenya. The amount of time one was given was short, but at the same time the amount of confidence that was required to display in this short time was immense.
Advocacy may not necessarily begin in an office. Policy makers are busy people, and you may have only a very short amount of time to make them interested in your matter. You may have 60 seconds or less in the train, in the elevator, or even as they walk to their car; you just never know. Preparation is the first step in advocacy. Indeed, one key message I came away with was that one know your content inside-out.
It was extremely fulfilling to interact with young people from across the continent of Africa and beyond. Numerous lasting friendships were made. It was fun, fun and more fun. We all very much look forward to more training and discussions where we will derive great solutions to reinvigorate the effort against NCDs in Africa.