Faculty of Medicine

Strengthening health priority in Ethiopia with Gates-Millions

A grant of 3 million US dollars from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is enabling Professor Ole Frithjof Norheim and his research group to teach health priorities to Ethiopian students.

Bill Gates and Ole Frithjof Norheim
BIG SUPPORT: Bill Gates supports Ole Frithjof Norheim and his work on health priorities in Ethiopia.
Wikimedia Commons/Kim E. Andreassen

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Professor Ole Frithjof Norheim at the Department of Global Public Health and Primary Care, at the University of Bergen, has received 3 million US dollars from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for a three year project that aims to strengthen local capacity on health priorities in Ethiopia.

“The ministry of Health in Addis Ababa needs to strengthen their competency in undertaking economic evaluations and needs advice on how to establish health priorities,” Norheim explains.

Norheim and his research group, Global Health Priories, have been active for many years in the project Disease Control Priorities (DCP), which gives advice on health priorities to, amongst others, the World Health Organization (WHO), in addition to other important global actors.

Norheim’s contributions resulted in  the leader of the DCP, Dean Jamison, asking him and his team to start the project Disease Control Priorities Ethiopia, with the particular goal of helping local authorities to engage in evidence-based decision-making.

Building local capacity

Within a timespan of three years, Norheim, Professor Kjell Arne Johansson (UiB) and Assistant Professor Stépane Verguet, from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, have contributed to capacity-building by  teaching seven Master students and two PHD-students, both at UiB and Harvard.

In addition to giving advice to policy makers and politicians in Ethiopia, the programme graduates will head back to the Health Ministry in Addis Ababa, . Where they have signed a contract with the Health Department in Addis Ababa, to work in a new Department dealing with finance and economic evaluation. They are recruited to the Ministry in collaboration with the Health Minister in Ethiopia.

“There is a great need for health priorities in the curriculum at the medical faculties in Ethiopia. In the long run, we want to build a permanent education programme in the country. We have, for instance, established a Centre for Ethics and Priority at Addis Ababa University. Our students will partly have their working place there,” says Norheim.

Big Health reform

Health priorities are about knowing which actions one should prioritise within the frame of a health budget. The analytical tools that the student learn to use during the project period, will be shared with other students in their home country. These tools are suitable for giving advice to policy makers and health authorities, which is highly relevant at the moment, as Ethiopia is undertaking a significant revision of their national health plan.

“For example, at the moment there is an increasing demand from the growing middle class to prioritise cancer and cardiovascular diseases. One of the big questions is to whether to choose these diseases over the planned initiatives to promote mother- and child health,” Norheim explains.

Long experience with Ethiopia

Norheim says that the cause of their success in Ethiopia is in large part due to University of Bergen´s Centre of International Health (CIH), which has an  over 30 year history of local capacity building in Ethiopia.

“Long relationships create trust between the policymakers and us. This means we have good access to important politicians and policy makers in Ehtiopia,” says Ole Frithjof Norheim.