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This year's Extreme Affordability Conference in Ghana had something new to offer.

Something special happens when stage and subject align. Earlier this summer, after trading air-conditioned ballrooms for steamy tents in sub-Saharan Africa, the Extreme Affordability Conference achieved that alignment. Although the conference has always been about improving access to global health resources, taking the event to Ghana maximized global partnerships in new ways.

Leveraging Combined Strengths and Connections

The University of Utah’s Division of Public Health has been working in Africa for nearly two decades. In 2015, the U opened the Ensign College of Public Health, located about 50 miles northeast of Accra. It was this relationship that seeded the possibility of hosting the sixth annual Extreme Affordability Conference in Ghana. Ensign College administrators embraced the idea and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, a medical school in nearby Kumasi, and IntraHealth International also joined as partners.

This year’s theme, “Impacting Health Through Collaboration and Innovation,” emphasized the importance of partnerships in global health. Because Africa is the continent with the greatest need for access to trained providers, it was the ideal backdrop for addressing four pressing global health issues—each using West Africa as a focal point: 

  • accessing surgery as a key to human development;
  • engaging communities in healthy living;
  • overcoming demographic challenges to health care; and
  • expanding human resources for health.

The conference featured a broad base of global health thought leaders, including Delanyo Dovlo, Director of Health Systems and Services for the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for Africa; Emmanuel Makasa, Counsellor-Health for the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Zambia to the United Nations; Githinji Gitahi, CEO of Amref Health Africa; and Agyeman Badu Akosa, a member of Ensign College’s board and executive director of Healthy Ghana.

Record Turnout in Ghana

Attendance at the 2018 Extreme Affordability Conference hit an all-time high with nearly 200 thought leaders, policy makers, medical and public health practitioners, technologists, investors, and student trainees from the U.S. and West Africa. In spite of inclement weather and suffocating humidity, attendees were actively engaged and walked away with broader perspectives and deeper relationships. 

Some, like Rebecca Kohler of IntraHealth International, were moved to share their experiences. Kohler elegantly captures the spirit of the conference and key takeaways in a blog post.

Participation by several venerated international organizations was a great addition this year. These included the United States Agency for International DevelopmentWorld Health OrganizationJhpiegoAmref Health Africa, and University Research Co. Likewise, it was thrilling to have so many attendees from the University of Utah. They included faculty from several health and medical disciplines, the Center for Medical Innovation, Huntsman Cancer Institute, and the David Eccles School of Business.

Student attendance was also higher than ever this year. Nearly 100 students from the U, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Georgia State University, and Ensign College attended.

Collaboration & Innovation in Action

Through years of development, the Extreme Affordability Conference has created opportunities to foster participation from many health disciplines. The 2018 conference exemplifies collaboration and innovation in action. For example, a mini innovation challenge allowed student trainees to work side-by-side with other conference participants. Together they evaluated seven products currently under development. The winning product was a low-cost, reusable device that uses vacuum extraction to stop profuse bleeding immediately following childbirth, one of the leading causes of maternal death.

Such collaboration is a core value of the U’s global health mission, which is shared by an ever-growing group of global partners. Together, our world-view expands as we learn new ways of delivering health services and align ourselves toward a common goal: health resource access and affordability for all. 

This post originally appeared on University of Utah Health's blog, NOTES.

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Interested in learning about other switchpoints in global health and development? Or better yet, creating your own? Follow IntraHealth and SwitchPoint on social media and join us for SwitchPoint 2019 next April.