Authors: Adwoa Twum, Linda A. Vanotoo, and Benjamin Nyakutsey (Head of the Policy Unit of the Policy Planning Monitoring and Evaluation Department of Ghana’s Ministry of Health)
Ghana’s Annual Health Summit is the annual culmination event where the results of the review and monitoring of the health sector are presented to stakeholders through a series of policy dialogues. Using the Holistic Assessment Tool, developed by the Ministry of Health (MOH), the reviews begin from the lowest unit of administration (the sub-district), through the regional level, culminating in the national level holistic assessment, the final stage of the bottom-up review process. The holistic assessment reviews the performance of the implementation of the annual program of work, major milestones achieved, challenges, and mitigation strategies. The presentation of the holistic assessment results sets the tone for the summit and provides the basis of policy discussions.
The annual gathering brings together stakeholders from other ministries and departments, all health sector agencies, development partners, implementing partners, civil society, and other non-governmental organizations. It is the main feature convening of the health sector and is accompanied by pomp and pageantry to present the findings from the sector-wide assessment.
Planning for the 2021 Summit
“Extremely well-organized meeting! Well-done to all who made it happen.”
In 2021, after an unprecedented 2020 when the Summit was cancelled due to the pandemic, the Summit was convened as a hybrid event, opening it up to national, regional, and global stakeholders who had previously not had access because of the in-person nature of the Summit.
Fittingly, the theme for the 2021 Summit, “Strengthening the Resilience of Ghana’s Health System to Better Respond to Emergencies,” put the effects of the pandemic, and the response, at the center of the Health Summit discussions to review the lessons learned and plan to prevent and improve responses to future emergencies. To that end, the MOH established a collaborative mechanism to bring together partners and health agencies to support planning. A planning committee, with sub-committees, was established to manage different parts of the Summit: a virtual committee was responsible for the agenda and the meeting platform; a content committee oversaw the discussions topics; a communications committee supported media engagement, summit website, and social media content; and a logistics committee managed venue set up, catering, and protocols.
The Health Systems Strengthening Accelerator (Accelerator) worked with the virtual sub-committee to coordinate the development of the agenda, set up the audio-visual equipment, and conferencing tools needed to host the summit. These tools were used before the Summit by the MOH to support ongoing engagement with partners and stakeholders during COVID-19, when strict physical distancing schedules and limited in-person engagements threatened to slow down the MOH’s work. The tools are also being utilized during the recovery period where hybrid and fully virtual meetings have become the norm.
Previous in-person Summits were hosted as two all-day events but were extended to four half-day events to accommodate the hybrid nature of the 2021 Summit. The agenda optimized the opportunity to expand access to the Summit by showcasing the COVID-19 experience of healthcare workers across the country. International panelists from the Africa region also provided context for comparing the responses of African countries to the pandemic and sharing the lessons learned from the regional, national, and global responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2021 Summit also laid the groundwork for using the multi-sectoral response to COVID-19 as a template for increased coordination amongst sectors to tackle the critical social determinants of health towards sound human development policies as the goal of government.
Hosting a Summit During a Pandemic
The 2021 Health Summit was the first hybrid-event in the history of the MOH and the first to be held at the Ministry. The venue and format allowed for wider participation of the MOH staff, partner organizations, and other stakeholders across the length and breadth of the country, the region and globally, to participate in the policy dialogues.
The Summit attracted more than 800 virtual and in person participants who trickled in and out during the week, based on their interests in particular discussion topics. Many virtual participants came from Ghana, and others came from countries across Africa, Europe, the Americas, and Asia, including Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Nigeria, Switzerland, United States and China. Within Ghana, most participants came from the capital, Accra and more than 34% came from the 15 other regions.
The MOH has drafted the post-summit Aide Memoire that includes priority activities identified during the Summit. The government and partners have agreed on the activities in the Memoire as well as monitoring and accountability mechanisms to guide implementation. The 2021 Aide Memoire prioritizes key activities that emerged from the Summit policy dialogues, including activities related to Human Resource for Health, Research, Health Information, and Monitoring and Evaluation. Priority items such as the review of the Holistic Assessment indicators will require significant stakeholder engagement to broaden the indicators and build consensus on data sources and reporting formats.
The Accelerator will continue to work with the MOH and its agencies to advance the prioritized activities to address key health systems challenges on the journey to UHC and self-reliance.