CHESAI post-doctoral fellow Dr Gina Teddy extends HPSR network into Ghana

Dr Gina Teddy started as a participant in the annual Winter School of the School of Public Health, University of the Western Cape after she joined the Health Policy and Systems Division at the University of Cape Town as a CHESAI post-doctoral fellow.

The following year she taught on one of the Winter School’s courses. Since then, she has established the Centre for Health Systems and Policy Research (CHESPOR) at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration. In August 2015, 68 participants attended the first CHESPOR Winter School in Ghana.

 

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“I thought why can’t we do this back home? How can we create similar spaces for intellectual discussions and learning?”, Teddy said in her inspirational graduation ceremony speech at the close of the Winter School in Cape Town in July 2016.

 

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CHESAI provided scholarships for 39 participants to attend the Winter School this year. CHESAI started as a collaborative of health policy and systems researchers based in South Africa and aims to build HPSR collaboration and capacity. It explicitly seeks to develop African networks and Teddy is working hard to strengthen the network in Ghana.

In her speech at the graduation ceremony, Teddy highlighted three key themes. First, the idea that healthcare is a social right, that all human lives have the same value and that healthcare systems must provide similar treatments for similar needs. She underscored this argument by quoting Julio Frenk, the former Minister of Health of Mexico: "Since the great majority of health deficits are involuntary, it follows that no type of discrimination in access to health services can be morally valid."

Second, she shared her experience of applying the knowledge gained during the Winter School course to her workplace to highlight how we should be prepared to tackle the structures, bureaucracies and systems that make putting our knowledge, ideas and competencies into practice challenging. In this, she acknowledged the support of various colleagues from the CHESAI network.

Third, Teddy emphasized the importance of understanding one’s own position in the field of HPSR and the “lenses” through which one views the world. To bring this point home, she told the story of three fish:

“There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says ‘Morning, boys. How’s the water?’. And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes ‘What the heck is water?’”.

With this story, Teddy reminded us that reflexivity is a key principle for HPSR work. HPSR researchers are themselves actors in the health system who are shaped by the social, political and economic factors that influence the health system.

Leanne Brady, Health Policy and Systems Division, University of Cape Town

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