Text Size

Current Size: 100%

GPU's CEO Asks Rwanda MOH About Implementation of UN CRPD as a Ratifying Nation

Headshot of Dr Agnes Binagwaho

Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, Rwandan Minister of Health (Photo by Stephanie Novak)

On Wednesday, July 29, 2015, Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, Rwandan Minister of Health (MOH), presented the David E. Barmes Global Health Lecture, "Medical Research and Capacity Building for Development: The Experience of Rwanda," on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland. The lecture is organized annually by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) and Fogarty. Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, Minister of Health of the Republic of Rwanda, has spoken frequently about the value of research data and capacity building at her country’s medical and academic institutions in helping relieve the disease burden that weighs on Rwandan and other LMIC populations. Discussing the vital role of data to strengthen healthcare systems, the MOH stated frankly that the healthcare and scientific community knew from much earlier published reports that an ebola epidemic was on the horizon: '...a lack of scientific knowledge can be lethal'.

She emphasized that Rwanda's stratgic planning has deployed five specific strategies that incorporated research at the forefront to achieve a healthcare system where no one is left out: 1) Fostered leadership at all levels of the healthcare system; 2) Established resilient institutions with national ownership; 3) Made decisions based on scientific evidence; 4) Focused on providing care at the community level; 5) Collaborated across other sectors.

The MOH stressed the Rwanda framework that a healthy workforce equals economic growth-- a core tenet of GPU's approach to designing telehealth and telerehabilitation systems to address inclusive healthcare, education, and employment. During the Q&A, Evelyn Cherow, GlobalPartnersUnited's CEO/Founder, offered the MOH plaudits for the extensive accomplishments in Rwanda's reducing maternal (a 3/4 reduction) and child (a 2/3 reduction) mortality. In this context, Cherow noted that Rwanda as a ratifying nation of the treaty, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), participated at the annual UN Conference of States Parties convening (COSP; June, 2015).  Cherow summarized that at the COSP meeting,the global disability organizations' alliances and individual nation's delegates repeatedly urged that the Sustainable Development Goals are not explicit about the pressing priority for disability data collection in order to implement the treaty's tenets and secure funding for such purposes--including healthcare and rehabilitation access and cross-sectorally, inclusion in education and early child development programs. Dr. Benagwaho described a comprehensive disability data collection effort that has taken place and informed by a Rwanda appointed National Commission on Persons with Disabilities. Over a year, physicians and nurses were trained to measure level of 'handicap' and this data collection was conducted in all districts. Data has been gathered by adding questions in the country's census with a goal to implement the tenets based on the evidence--the tact she has described as effective in a 3 rounds of HPV vaccine programs accomplishing a 93% outcome for Rwanda's 6th grade girls. 

Before becoming minister in 2011, the MOH had served as permanent secretary of health, as executive secretary of Rwanda’s National AIDS Control Commission, and as a physician in public hospitals for over 15 years. She trained in pediatrics, specialized in emergency neonatology and the treatment of HIV/AIDS, and earned her doctoral degree from the University of Rwanda in 2014. She holds positions at Harvard University and Dartmouth College, where she teaches courses in health equity, HIV/AIDS, information and communication technologies for health, and pediatric care delivery systems. NIH supports a range of research and training collaborations with Rwandan scientists, such as clinical trials of an HIV vaccine, development of research skills to study cervical and other cancers, and investigations of how intimate partner violence affects health. Rwanda's programs have formed collaborative partnerships with Parttners in Health/Harvard University as well as Dartmouth University. She noted that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other donors have provided funding to support Rwanda's programs. 

 View the recorded webcast of Medical Research and Capacity Building for Development: The Experience of Rwanda by Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, Rwandan Minister of Health on the NIH Videocasting site.

See Lancet Global Health journal article (June 2015), State capability and Rwanda's health gains, for a broad discussion and detailed findings: 'The health achievements of this country surpass those of its peers and even countries with higher levels of economic development....' (http://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X%2815%2900008-X/fulltext)