Dr. Amina Mohammed Baloni was born in Kaduna to Aisa and Aliko Mohammed, she started her educational career at the Kaduna Capital School, Queens College, Lagos, and Micklefield School in the UK.

She graduated MBBS in 1991 from Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, and obtained her fellowship from the West African College of Physicians in Internal Medicine in 2004, she holds a Master’s in Public Health from the University of Liverpool and has had over 25 years of practice first as a clinician and then as a public health professional.

Her core competencies in communication, drive for results, and working with people developed during her years working in development helped her to achieve results working with government across various states to improve the health and wellbeing of children and women through capacity building and transferring technical skills such as planning, analytics, formulating strategies and monitoring for results.

Dr. Amina Mohammed Baloni as a Consultant physician served as a lecturer at Ahmadu Bello University Teaching hospital Zaria, responsible for all aspects of clinical management and provided clinical and academic guidance to medical students undergoing undergraduate training, and doctors in residency training, preparation for exams, and clinical management of cases.

She also conducted examinations for undergraduate medical students according to the Medical and Dental Council.

Dr. Mohammed Baloni worked in the development field with UNICEF Kaduna Field Office (2004-2019) as a Health Specialist responsible for providing technical assistance to the Government and other counterparts on Health programmes including Maternal and Child Health interventions as well as Health policy at the field office level covering the North Western part of the country across 8 states and FCT supporting partners to improve capacity, coordination, monitoring and evaluation to help deliver quality health services and advocate for the rights of children and women.

Amina is a team player who leads by building consensus among her team, is passionate about developing people, and is a good listener. A systems person, she believes that strong systems provide sustainable development and results. She has strong leadership skills refined through her training and honed at the prestigious INSEAD Business School.

Her various certifications in Health System Strengthening, Health Financing, and World Bank Institute have positioned her as a foremost professional with broad public health knowledge and experience to impact health systems and improve performance.

She is currently serving as the Honorable Commissioner for Health Kaduna State, a position she assumed in December 2019. She successfully coordinated the public health response to the COVID 19 pandemic which saw Kaduna State as one of the top states in managing the pandemic, through a robust response that aimed to streamline the response within the existing health structures and harness all available resources.

Under her watch, Kaduna was the first state in the country to launch delivery of medical supplies using the innovative technology of unmanned aerial drones to hard-to-reach and far-to-reach communities in the State.

An individual who believes that as a person who has been fortunate to receive a good education, she has a duty to give back to society and uplift others which she does vigorously. Amina is married and is blessed with three wonderful children.

Please tell us about yourself (educational qualification and experience)?

I am a public health practitioner who has had the opportunity of working in the public health space for the past 17 and a half years and learning a lot in the process.

I had my early education at Kaduna Capital School and proceeded from there to Queens College Lagos where I obtained my secondary school education and then proceeded to the UK for my A levels after which I completed my MBBS training at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria in 1991, I completed my fellowship training in Internal Medicine and was awarded a fellowship by the West African College of Physicians in 2004.

I briefly worked as a Lecturer at the ABU Medical College and then proceeded to work with the United Nations Children’s Fund for about 15 years before assuming office as the Commissioner of Health in Kaduna State. I also hold a master’s degree in public health from the University of Liverpool.

I have both clinical and public health experience spanning over 25 years working at ABUTH, managing patients, training undergraduate and postgraduates, and extensive field experience working in Maternal and Child Health, Immunization, Health System policy, and programming.

I have also attended various certification training in Public Health and Leadership including the WB institute, INSEAD, and London School of Tropical Medicine, and lately Harvard.

We understand that ensuring healthy lives and promoting wellbeing is one of the Sustainable Development Goals, could you share the health priorities in your state in line with achieving SDG3?

The ultimate measure of development is healthy citizens, this, in turn, impacts human capital development, productivity, and prosperity. Our mandate is to ensure that the citizens of Kaduna State enjoy the best possible state of health and wellbeing in line with the SDGs and we have been working to ensure that policies and service delivery are doing just that! Our state priorities for the health sector include;

a. Implementing appropriate strategies and interventions which offer the lowest cost and highest impact to promote good quality services for all citizens

b. Effective and efficient Primary Health Care service delivery (that is community-centered) for all but targeting the most vulnerable groups of the society, pregnant women and children under five years

c. Free healthcare for pregnant women and children under 5 (40% of the population)

d. Free malaria treatment and prevention for all, and free Services in other areas: clinical consultation, counseling, and testing for HIV, antiretroviral therapy, and ambulance services; and

e. Subsidy for other health services which include the cost of drugs, hemodialysis, laboratory, and catering services in hospitals.

f. Strong public-private sector collaboration in preventive, rehabilitative, and curative PHC and secondary care all; some of these initiatives such as the use of drones to deliver life-saving commodities in far-to-reach and hard-to-reach communities in partnership with Zipline are ground-breaking as we are the first state to do this in Nigeria.

g. An effective linkage between the three levels of health in the State through a robust referral system, emphasizing specialty of care at the secondary and tertiary level

h. Improved skilled manpower and infrastructural capacity at all levels of care

i. Promote community participation in health care delivery

j. To promote the culture of research to guide the Health Sector Policies and decision making

The NGF Secretariat is championing PHC strengthening through the PHC Challenge Fund, could you share some of the things your state is doing around strengthening PHC in your state?

There are several things we are focusing on in different areas;

a. Leadership and Governance:

i. RI Task Force is now PHC Task Force (fully integrated) with regular meetings chaired by the Deputy Governor.
ii. LG Health Advisory Committees (chaired by LGA Chairmen) are now fully functional and have relatively more regular meetings.
iii. Streamlined TWGs for more effective techniques for planning and implementation of all PHC interventions.

b. Service Delivery

i. Integrated Service Delivery Plan where services are now delivered in tandem, rather than horizontally
ii. Integrated Demand creation strategy – all community structures merged into one. All messages are now delivered by the same people per visit, and community mobilization is conducted in a more integrated manner with regard to general health promotion, prevention, and immunization.
iii. MNCH Week is conducted every 6 months
iv. We have reintroduced Under 5 clinics established in pilot facilities which we hope to scale up to all PHCs
v. Group ANC services now show better retention for women across the ANC/Labour/PNC continuum. Currently implemented in 494 health facilities. The plan is to scale up to all PHC facilities
vi. Neonatal corners soon to be introduced in Kaduna State PHCs for early neonatal interventions (training conducted, equipment provided).

c. HRH

i. 1,225 additional staff recruited for the PHCs. 1,834 to be recruited
ii. PHC Management Support Project to build the capacity of PHC Officers in charge on the management of the facilities. The aim is to transform the OICs from technically inclined health workers to Managers of semi-autonomous business entities

d. Medicines and Equipment

i. Supply chain transformation project implemented to achieve One Supply Chain System
ii. MOU with manufacturers reached. Drugs (of good quality and cost) being consistently supplied
iii. Equipment worth 3.5Billion Naira procured for all 255 Ward

e. Financing

i. 15% allocation to Health (Abuja declaration) achieved for the last 4 years
ii. Health Insurance Authority fully functional – all public sector employees have been enrolled and we are now targeting the informal sector, over 500,000 citizens are so far part of the scheme.
iii. BHCPF is being implemented to provide services for children under 5 and pregnant women
iv. State equity contribution: 1% State CRF being disbursed to Kaduna State Health Insurance Scheme to cover the most vulnerable population

f. Monitoring & Evaluation has been strengthened through the establishment of an:

i. Integrated Data Control Room, which is working very well - improving reporting rates and minimizing errors
ii. We have put in place Local Technical Assistants which is a mentoring program for LGA and facility level staff for data capture and reporting as well as facilitation of data demand use, this is supported and driven by Ward Development Committees

Can you share some of the major challenges you face in providing solutions for PHC strengthening in your state?

a. Constrained fiscal space due to the economic constraints nationwide
b. The COVID 19 Pandemic disrupted services especially during the lockdown and this has led to a fall in service coverage
c. HRH: The state has over 1000 PHCs and as such we have a challenge with getting enough human resources to cover all facilities as is required, Primary Healthcare subsector is operating with 33% of the required capacity, and this has impacted the quality of service but we are evolving strategies such as the task shifting, task sharing policy and recruitment as well as redistribution of health workers to provide quality service to the people of Kaduna State
d. Inadequate equipment in PHCs/GHs a hindrance to optimal service delivery, this is a result of years of underinvestment, but we are working steadily to close this gap.
e. Inadequate power supply in PHCs and GHs hinders the sector’s ability to operate 24-hour service, the government has begun the provision of solar electricity to all health facilities to ensure adequate power to facilities
f. Security challenges across the State have also contributed to the non-operability of 24-hour service

With regards to the PHC- Leadership challenge, could you share some of your expectations from the NGF team to facilitate the improvement of the PHC system in your state?

My expectation is that the PHC challenge will really galvanize states to focus on PHC services which are supposed to provide up to 70-80% of health care to the population. Already there is a consensus that if we are to reduce morbidity and mortality and improve our health indices then we must ensure the PHC system provides quality services that are responsive to community needs. Provide enough clarity of the Challenge, for example, we will need to clearly define what the parameters are for setting baselines, how would the impact be measured, and agree on how it will be done. Facilitate technical support to States by NGF as well as partners e.g. UNICEF. We will also need consistent funding support from our principals especially cash backing of budgeted funds

Kindly share any closing thoughts you have with us?

Health is a vital sector and is one of the sectors which impacts everyone. There is a recognition that we need more funding but more importantly, we need to be more efficient with how we spend what is available.

For too long we have grappled with insufficient progress in improving our dismal health indices. The current crop of Health Commissioner across the country is focused on breaking with the status co and are all working diligently to change this.

We are fortunate to have the strong backing of the NGF which is invaluable and together with the opportunity provided by the Presidential Health Reform Committee will reposition the sector will to meet the challenges of providing a health service that is responsive to the need of all Nigerians.

By Isioma Ononye,
Social Media Officer

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