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Letters to the Editor

Africa, Empowered

Solving Africa's Ills

"Cross Roads" [Spring 2006] aptly underscores the reality of [the Bloomberg School's] profound strides, not just at filling international journals with discoveries, but at solving Africa's ills

Ozidi Odunze
Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike
Abia State, Nigeria

Brain Drain Anxiety

I am personally impressed by your article, "If We Don't Do It, Then Who?" because it sheds considerable light on the dire need for Africans to be competently empowered to handle their own problems—especially in the public health sector, where the big-time killer diseases cannot be overstated. As a student of public health, I am deeply concerned about the phenomenon of brain drain, which in my opinion is one of the most compelling setbacks to the development of science as a whole in Africa.

I must express my fear as a Cameroonian that as a recent survey reveals, my country will be devoid of practicing medical doctors by the year 2009. HELP!

Daniel Etchi
Public Health Department
University of Kuopio
Kuopio, Finland

Matters of Course

Back in medical school in my native Ghana, I was taught very complex genetic diseases. At the time it felt good—understanding all these "exotic" diseases [like] Von-Gierke's disease and histiocytosis X was very appealing. Meanwhile, I had little understanding of biostatistics and epidemiology.

After spending a year in grad school, I am more than convinced that the way forward for many, if not all, African countries lies in the field of public health. As public health practitioners, we should at least strive to make biostatistics and epidemiology attractive to the African medical student.

Nana Ekow, MD, MPH
Boston, Massachusetts

I am less than halfway through my MPH, and I have been wondering why it had to take almost 10 years after medical school and more than 5,000 miles to learn something as important as epidemiology. We can't afford to incorporate everything about public health in med school curricula, but we can provide the "nucleus" that will allow practitioners to adequately answer the "what's, why's, when's and how's." Only then can they map out the best course of action.

Secondly, we need to reach a stage where the knowledge will make us influence the course of action by public leaders, society and ourselves; a change of direction to some of the norms and attributes that make us African will need to take place. For instance, can we honestly say we make budgetary allocations appropriately in the face of the overwhelming disease burden?

Clementina Lwatula
University of Queensland
Brisbane, Australia

Don't Wait to Make a Difference

Africa's health problems have not gotten the attention they deserve. Malaria kills millions of our children annually; HIV/AIDS is silently stealing people from our communities. Many health institutions are churning out graduates to sit in offices rather than go out in the communities to empower people with health information. Many of us wait to be told what to do, [rather] than do what is appropriate to solve the prevalent health issues on the ground. Until we do a paradigm shift and [give up the idea] that other people from abroad will come to solve our problems, we as Africans are doomed.

Taban Asega Kamala
Moyo, Uganda

Editor's Note:For more comments on African health, visit

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