Dr Anwar Husnoo, the Minister of Health and Quality of Life, opened the validation workshop held on 02 October 2018 at Le Meridien Hotel, Mauritius to validate the findings of the National Assessment of the Health System for better non-communicable disease outcomes. Eminent personalities, namely Her Excellency, Ms Marjanna Sall, the Ambassador of European Union, Mrs Christine Umutoni, United Nation Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Dr Laurent Musango, the WHO Representative in Mauritius, Mr Prakash Nowbuth, Senior Chief Executive, Dr Maryam Timol, the acting Director General Health Services, Mrs Mudaliar, Permanent Secretary of the Health Ministry and were present during the opening ceremony. The national assessment of the health system, a joint initiative of the World Health Organization (WHO), European Union and the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life, which started in September 2017, has now reached the stage of completion. The assessment results will be used in national processes for elaborating the Health Sector Strategic Plan (HSSP) and the Integrated NCD Action Plan for Mauritius.
Dr Hon. Answar Husnoo, Health Minister, in his address, highlighted the fact that two fifths of deaths around the world is caused by NCDs. He pointed out that in Mauritius, NCDs account for 81% of deaths and 85% of disease burden and emphasized on the vision of the Government of Mauritius: ‘everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy a healthy lifestyle.’ He also recalled that National NCD Survey in Mauritius is carried out every five years since 1987 and gathers information on the national NCD situation in view of developing appropriate strategies to curb the NCD epidemic in the country. Dr Hon. Husnoo further pointed out that the validation workshop will provide ‘valuable feedback’ for policy development in view of reducing the NCD burden of diseases and increasing the national economic growth. The Health Ministry is very much conscious of the importance of policy development and expressed its gratitude to the European Union and the World Health Organization for their support in making the national health assessment possible. ‘Two thirds of the NCD-related deaths are associated with unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, smoking and abusive alcohol intake in Mauritius,’ said the Health Minister who also highlighted that NCD was taken at the highest level by the United Nations last week and that ‘the national assessment of the health system is not an end in itself.’ This important exercise will now lead to the development of the Health Sector Strategy with special focus on Patient-Centred Care and Primary Health Care (PHC).
‘I personally believe that these premature deaths from NCD’s can be prevented’, said the Health Minister. The latter added that ‘NCDs are major health concern of my ministry and by reducing NCD morbidity and mortality, we can reduce unnecessary suffering of the Mauritian population.’ The national assessment of the health system, he pointed out, will enable the Health Ministry to develop appropriate strategies to reduce inequality and provide for better alignment of the national NCD strategies to the WHO Global NCD Action Plan. Dr Hon. Husnoo stated out that national efforts carried out since the past twenty years have led to the ‘stabilization of diabetes’ in the country in 2015.
Her Excellency, Ms Marjanna Sall, Ambassador of the European Union congratulated WHO for ‘the good work in carrying out this national health assessment.’ She added that ‘this collaboration shows the wide span of our partnership with the Republic of Mauritius’. The European Union is glad to add the health sector to the list of sectors to which it is currently collaborating with Mauritius. ‘The national assessment has been carried out in the framework of the project called 'Health Systems Strengthening for Universal Health Coverage’ funded by European Union and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and implemented by WHO. In the context of this project, the European Union is promoting universal health coverage in 20 African countries including Mauritius. Through international health partnership and development of national health policies, strategies and plans, this project envisages to increase health care and improve technical and institutional capacities, knowledge and information for health systems and policy dialogue. According to Ms Sall, ‘it is a basic human right for everyone to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, so as to promote human dignity, well being and prosperity.’ She added, ‘this is not just an entitlement to people of any advanced society, as keeping people healthy and active has a positive impact on productivity and competitiveness.’ The Ambassador of the EU pointed out that NCDs are placing the burden on the health systems and represent ‘a real threat for the development of advanced economies.’ She reiterated the commitment of the European Union at global level to realize the Sustainable Development Goals, especially the SDG 3 on health and target 3.4 which focuses on reducing by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases.
Dr Laurent Musango, WHO Representative in Mauritius, in his address, briefly highlighted the different steps that have led to the validation stage including the review and synthesis of the challenges and subsequent prioritization of the challenges by the assessment team. Since the epidemiological context of Mauritius is very similar to the European countries, WHO-EURO methodology was adapted to Mauritius context and used for this assessment. He pointed out that since Mauritius is the first country to have undertaken such an assessment, it will serve as a model for other countries in the African region having similar disease burden. According to Dr Musango, ‘the assessment has opened a window of opportunities for participatory approach in health policy development, specifically societal dialogue in health. He highlighted that NCDs have ‘significant macroeconomic and poverty impact.’ He added that ‘for every 10% increase in NCD mortality, economic growth is reduced by 0.5%.’ The WHO Representative pointed out that one of the targets of the WHO Global NCD Action Plan is to reduce by 25% premature mortality by 2025. The latter said that the challenge for Mauritius is to ‘decrease the probability of premature death due to one of the NCDs from 22.5% to 16.5% by 2025.’ Dr Musango concluded by thanking the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life for collaborating with WHO on this important aspect of policy development, the European Union for providing necessary financial support and other key stakeholders including representatives from government, population, civil society, UN agencies, media, academia, NGO’s, bilateral and multilateral agencies who participated in the validation of the findings of the assessment.