The WHO Regional Office for Africa (WHO/AFRO) and the NCDI Poverty Network met in Accra, Ghana, from 17 to 19 July to discuss the region’s PEN-Plus implementation strategy.
In 2022, to alleviate the NCD burden in sub-Saharan Africa, WHO/AFRO adopted a landmark resolution to implement PEN-Plus, which provides diagnosis and treatment services at first-level referral hospitals for people living with severe NCDs, including type 1 diabetes, sickle cell disease, and rheumatic and congenital heart disease.
The meeting aligned key partners on the project implementation plan, which lays out principal benchmarks and goals. In attendance were leadership from the NCDI Poverty Network Secretariat (an initiative of the CIS), the PEN-Plus project manager for WHO/AFRO, WHO/AFRO technical leads, and representatives from WHO country offices in the region, including Ghana and Ethiopia.
The meeting agenda included a site visit to a first-level referral hospital and a district hospital in Ghana to understand better how patients with severe NCDIs are managed.
“Site visits and discussions with hospital leadership, care providers, and patients help to contextualize the PEN-Plus implementation strategy and understand the expected nuances in different countries,” said Dr. Emmanuel Mensah, managing director of the Center for Integration Science in Global Health Equity. “It was helpful for the team to see how patients with these severe NCDs are managed at various levels of care in Ghana.”
With a recent $9 million grant from the Helmsley Charitable Trust, WHO/AFRO is working to advance the implementation of PEN-Plus by:
- Developing communication materials in multiple languages to garner country support;
- Adapting NCD assessments and evidence-based tools for district-level healthcare facilities;
- Exploring sustainable financing frameworks to strengthen local governance;
- Integrating NCD care protocols to enable consistent and high-quality healthcare; and
- Designing an evaluation framework, including measurable key performance indicators.
As the WHO Collaborating Centre on Integration Science and Service Delivery, the Center for Integration Science in Global Health Equity will continue to work closely with WHO/AFRO to support member states on engagement, assessment, planning, and implementation for PEN-Plus. The center also serves as the Boston co-secretariat of the NCDI Poverty Network.
“The center’s collaboration with WHO is bolstering the fight against type 1 diabetes, sickle cell disease, and rheumatic and congenital heart disease,” said Dr. Gene Bukhman, executive director of the Center for Integration Science and a co-chair of the NCDI Poverty Network. “Access to PEN-Plus services will bridge the treatment gap across the region for people living with severe, chronic NCDs.”