In an era defined by health emergencies, the role of trust cannot be understated. The recent partnership between the Aspen Institute’s Africa Initiative in Nairobi and Edelman provided a platform for a profound discussion on the dynamics of trust in African healthcare. The discussion was anchored in Edelman’s comprehensive ‘Trust in Health’ report, providing a foundation for the conversation. Participants included a blend of key voices in healthcare from across the continent: Busi Roberts from Edelman, Dr. Richard Ayah, Dr. Robert Newman, and Lolem Ngong, moderated by Lola Adedokun and hosted by Dr. Laila Macharia. Here’s what unfolded.
Trust: Not Just a Feeling, but a Measurable Entity
Busi Roberts, with her deep roots in healthcare marketing, brought forward an illuminating perspective on trust. “Trust is not just a feeling. It’s something we can measure,” she asserted, reverberating the sentiments reflected in Edelman’s Health and Trust report. alluding to insights from Edelman’s Trust and Health report. The report underscored the intricate connection between trust and vaccine acceptance, accentuating the necessity to unpack and comprehend various dimensions of trust, especially during healthcare crises. In one stark revelation, the pandemic saw a drop in societal trust in healthcare systems by up to 50% in certain countries. Most alarmingly, those refusing the COVID-19 vaccine often turned to the internet and peers for data, sidelining expert voices.
The Missing Piece: Leadership vs. Authority
In an insightful exchange, Lolem Ngong articulated, “In healthcare, it’s not just about solving problems but creating solutions that are sustainable and trusted by the community.” A clear gap in healthcare management is effective leadership. Dr. Robert Newman shared a similar perspective, distinguishing between occupying a position of authority and embodying genuine leadership. “Being in a position of authority does not automatically make you an effective leader, especially in healthcare where trust is key,” he pointed out.
Navigating Data and Trust
Data emerged as a central theme in the discussion. Dr. Robert highlighted, “Data is crucial but about human stories, not just numbers.” He stressed the importance of ensuring data tells real stories to build trust within communities. Conversely, Dr. Richard Ayah expressed the present mistrust in data, signifying a gap that requires attention. “Data is sometimes viewed with skepticism. Balancing transparency and accuracy is vital to building trust in what we present to the public,” he shared.
Building Trust: Community and Culture
Dr. Richard Ayah explained that building trust goes beyond simple transactions. “To build and sustain trust in healthcare, we must integrate insights and feedback from the communities we serve,” he said, highlighting a group approach to healthcare management.
Lolem Ngong brought this view into focus with thoughts on culture. “Building a culture of trust is a journey, involving not only transparency and consistency but engaging communities in co-creating health solutions,” he shared. Lolem highlighted that trust isn’t only found in strong systems but is also deeply rooted in the culture that surrounds them.
A Mixed Fabric: Final Thoughts
Wrapping up the discussion, the multifaceted nature of trust in healthcare was clearly illustrated. Each expert, with their unique perspectives, wove together a narrative that depicted trust as having many sides, requiring a collective effort from leadership, data management, community involvement, and a deep-rooted culture of credibility.
When you step back and reflect on the discussion, one thing is abundantly clear – trust in healthcare isn’t just vital, it’s pivotal. And the building blocks of this trust? Transparent leadership, diversity in thought and action, active community participation, objective data, and responsible media.
ABOUT THE DISCUSSANTS
Executive Director, Aspen Global Innovators
Lola Adedokun is the Executive Director of the Aspen Global Innovators Group at the Aspen Institute and co-Chair of the Aspen Institute Forum on Women and Girls. Following previous work with the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, she joined the Aspen Institute in December 2021. There she leads a dynamic team advancing a portfolio of programs that expand opportunities for, and access to, health and prosperity for people living at the world’s margins both globally and domestically.
Group Account Director, Health, Edelman
Busi is an experienced healthcare marketing and communications consultant, having worked for nearly ten years as the Head of Marketing and Communications at the RX Group of Companies, which provided services to various medical schemes such as Umvuzo Health and Alliance-Midmed, as well as managed health organisations and insurance businesses within the Group.
Dr. Richard Ayah
Senior Lecturer Public Health, University of Nairobi
Raised in Kenya, Namibia, and Somalia, Laila is a serial entrepreneur and investor based in Nairobi. She chairs the board of the Africa Digital Media Institute (ADMI), Eastern Africa’s premier learn-and-work creative technology community, which over the last decade, has trained over 5,000 students from over 30 different countries. As Senior Advisor at the Nexford University, Laila also serves as a non-executive director for the Absa Bank of Kenya and Centum, both listed on the Nairobi Stock Exchange.
Chief of Staff, AMREF
Lolem B. Ngong is a seasoned public health professional, with more than 15 years of leadership in global health diplomacy and coordination of strategic partnerships to address threats to public health. An epidemiologist by training, Ms. Ngong has advised and led collaborations with governments, civil society organisations, academic institutions, multilateral organisations, and donors. Ms. Ngong currently serves as Chief of Staff at Amref Health Africa.