UGHE Alumna Oveka Jana Advocates for Sustainable Health Financing in Public Health
Although there are numerous barriers to adequate healthcare in low- and middle-income countries, the crux of the matter is a lack of sustainable health financing, which leads to insufficient resources, a shortage of skilled healthcare personnel, as well as a lack of resilient and equitable quality health care delivery in the public health sector.
Oveka Jana, a UGHE alumna from the MGHD class of 2021, believes this to be true and reiterates the importance of health care financing in the public health sector.
As a direct nurse-midwife practitioner caring for patients, she saw firsthand how a lack of resources, healthcare professionals, and health financing ensued in poor quality health care delivery.
She reflects, “I kept asking myself if there was more than I could do to fix or reduce or prevent the health challenges that we were meeting, the lack of human resources, the lack of materials, which was leading to poor quality of care and poor health outcomes.”
Overcoming Health Care Barriers from the Roots: A Lesson from UGHE’s MGHD Program
Running out of options to address the health challenges she was observing in Malawi’s health sector, Oveka was convinced it was time to pursue global health education so she could learn how to address from the roots those pressing health challenges in her country.
“When I found out that UGHE was offering a master’s in global health delivery, which teaches its students how to identify and address the root causes of health problems, I pursued the MGHD program,” she says. “In the MGHD program, I studied how to address the systematic barriers to quality health affect health care access and even the social determinants of health.”
Prior to joining UGHE’s Master of Science in Global Health Delivery program in Health Management, Oveka Jana was a Nurse-Midwifery mentor at Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance. Upon graduating from UGHE with the right skills, knowledge and tools to contribute to quality health care for all, she returned to her workplace not as a nurse-midwife mentor but as the Program Coordinator for the Maternal Neonatal and Child Health program.
“We are bridging the health care gap between the rich and poor”
Oveka is using health management skills from the MGHD program to address the health challenges in Malawi which include a shortage of skilled health care workforce. She oversees the Health Workforce Development program that trains healthcare providers (nurses and midwives) to increase capacity and promote the provision of quality maternal and newborn care.
She reflects on her role at Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance, “we are equipping primary health care providers in the public health sector, with the necessary knowledge and skills and resources to provide quality care in public hospitals just like in private hospitals. And ultimately, we’re reducing that gap, that inequity existing between the rich and the poor, so that even those that are poor, or financially challenged, receive quality care from a public hospital. “
Oveka works in an organization that strives to ensure Universal Health Coverage by conducting outreach programs to provide preventative and curative health care for both chronic, communicable, and non-communicable diseases to low-resourced communities with poorly integrated health infrastructures. Through her role, she aims to bridge the gap between those who have access to quality health care because they can afford it and those who are further away displaced, and underserved, to ensure equity in access to health care.
Health Financing as Central to the Functioning of Health Systems
Health financing for public health care helps in attaining the Sustainable Development Goals including Universal Health coverage. The lack of required financing in the health sector exposes underserved communities with limited access to affordable quality health care.
As a dynamic global health leader armed with the necessary skills and tools to address systemic health issues such as a lack of health financing, Oveka Jana hopes to ensure that health systems are sustainable and capable of providing universal health care to the nation and the continent through sustainable public health financing.
“When we look at the shortage in human resources, material resources, infrastructure, and referral systems, I think the greatest challenge is that we lack financing and are largely donor-dependent,” she says.
She believes that the country’s over-reliance on donors to finance health care is why crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic or natural disasters occur when the health sector is not resilient enough to tackle the health challenges that accompany them.
“I would like to identify the means of sustaining our healthcare sector on our own to ensure that we can provide quality care to the masses,” she says.
With a country’s health financing arrangements determining who gets access to what health services, Oveka advocates for governments to allocate a budget for health care rather than relying on donors, as well as investing in community health insurance to ensure quality health care is provided to vulnerable communities.