Commonwealth initiative to strengthen health policy in Sierra Leone

08 March 2016 – A Commonwealth initiative to boost Sierra Leone’s health protection policy is designed to strengthen national health systems and help prevent and manage the impacts of future disease outbreaks, says Dr Joanna Nurse, Head of Health at the Commonwealth Secretariat.

The project with Sierra Leone’s Government and other development partners comes amid national and international efforts to recover from the Ebola outbreak. The pandemic cost Sierra Leone nearly 4,000 lives – more than a third of the global death toll.

The Commonwealth Secretariat will arrive in Sierra Leone on 8 March to work with the government to enhance its public health protection policy, particularly in the context of achieving universal health coverage, which would guarantee every citizen access to health services.

“It is our priority to continue to support Sierra Leone as it emerges from one of the worst pandemics in modern times,” said Dr Nurse. “We have to focus not only on the critical recovery of the country, but also on doing everything in our power to avoid a situation where a lack of basics, such as early detection and containment processes, laboratories, hospitals, medical equipment and doctors and nurses, prevent it from reining in a deadly disease.”

The initiative includes a series of workshops for policy makers with health experts and piloting a health policy toolkit developed in partnership with Public Health Wales and the UK’s Department of Health. This is a key component of the Commonwealth Health and Education Unit’s health system policy framework, summarised in the diagram below. Please find the draft copy of the policy toolkit here: Health Protection Policy Toolkit. Please contact the facilitation team on to provide any feedback or comments.

CS comms diagrams4

The project will build on the Commonwealth’s ongoing support to the country, which includes the deployment of an expert to the Ministry of Health to help develop outbreak containment strategies. These include tools to detect early warning signs and prevent infectious diseases from spreading rapidly.

Dr Nurse said the Commonwealth Secretariat will examine a wide range of factors that affect health services. “Climate change, environmental risks, education opportunities and a country’s economy all impact the effectiveness of health systems. Our aim is to have a very holistic approach to addressing the health challenges in Sierra Leone and to learn lessons from the Ebola pandemic,” she said.

She added: “Over the course of the next week we will be working with the country’s Ministries of Health, Finance, Development and Education to develop a robust health protection policy that can deal with emergencies, and a long term strategy to deliver quality health services to every citizen.”

The Commonwealth Secretariat in collaboration with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), the Commonwealth Secretariat and Public Health England (PHE) have prepared country profiles analysing the burden of disease for each Commonwealth country. These can be found here: Country Profiles.

Please click to see Sierra Leone’s profile: