September 12 was the United Nations Day for South-South Co-operation -- a reminder of the viable opportunities for development co-operation in developing nations in their individual and collective pursuit of sustainable development.
As part of the south-south collaboration operations under the EU supported SHARE (Strengthening health, applying research evidence) program, Icddr,b organised an experience-sharing visit in Yangon and Nay Pie Taw, Myanmar for policy-makers, health program managers, and Bangladesh researchers earlier in July.
One of the key solutions to strengthening public health institutions in Bangladesh lies within the nation’s neighbouring regions, where context and challenges tend to be similar.
Myanmar shares the same fate with Bangladesh in terms of weak public health infrastructure and low spending on public health care and severe shortage of human resources in the sector, including a limited capacity for public health institutions in policy analysis.
In this backdrop, the visit has helped team members know the details of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and the prevention initiatives being implemented in Myanmar under the EU-supported Strengthening of Public Health Institute Program and existing management information systems of the Myanmar Ministry of Health.
The visit has encouraged co-operation and exchange of knowledge and expertise on successful interventions and best practices in the health care sector.
Senior representatives from the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research, Bangladesh and Icddr,b joined the visiting team led by Dr Iqbal Anwar.
The visiting delegation continued their knowledge sharing meetings at the University of Public Health (UPH) in Nay Pyi Taw. The team learned about UPH’s capacity building initiatives in policy analysis and development.
Later, Dr Myint Shwe, Director of NCDs under the Department of Public Health, welcomed the Bangladeshi delegates at his office and discussed government plans for NCD prevention and control in Myanmar. The delegation went on to the Health Management Information System Department, where they learned about District Health Information System 2 software use in Myanmar.
The delegates from Bangladesh and their counterparts in Myanmar agreed to explore avenues for knowledge sharing in the field of health information management.
The Bangladeshi delegation visited a Package of Essential Non-communicable (PEN) Disease Intervention site, managed under a rural health centre at the Hmawbi Township in Myanmar.
Under the WHO-designed PEN interventions, inexpensive medication are used and preventative lifestyle changes are promoted.
These interventions include treatment of diabetes, hypertension, and dyslipidemia, counseling for quitting smoking, avoidance of alcohol abuse, and promoting healthy diet and regular exercise.
One of the key solutions to strengthening public health institutions in Bangladesh lies within the nation’s neighbouring regions
The visit showcased the value of increased south-south co-operation in public health, and how health programs can act as catalysts to promote capacity-building and evidence-based health policy across the global south.
At present, Bangladesh is leading the United Nations General Assembly High Level Committee on South-South Co-operation. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has signaled importance on sharing information, knowledge, experience, and technology among developing countries in the global south through effective south-south co-operation.
Winning the UN South-South Co-operation Visionary Award, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has also garnered recognition for Bangladesh in leading south-south co-operation. To make the full potential of south-south co-operation come true, we need to explore areas of capacity-building, resource mobilisation, and sharing technical expertise and best practices in the health sector.
Bangladesh is a bright example of advancing management information system in its utilisation of district health information system software.
In line with the promise of a Digital Bangladesh, one of the most significant changes in the health sector is transforming the paper-based health reporting system into an electronic health information system.
A matter of hope is Dr Abul Kalam Azad being appointed as the new Director General of DGHS. He has been leading this health information system from the very beginning. In the spirit of south-south co-operation, developing countries like Bangladesh can get an opportunity to share knowledge, skills, expertise, and resources through concerted efforts in a bit to improve its health sector.
It is imperative for the DGHS to accelerate professional motivation, knowledge-sharing, and capacity-building at different levels of health care policy-making in Bangladesh.
Monjur Ahmed is working as Communications Specialist at Icddr,b.