31 Jan 3 Questions with Dr. Kunda John Stephen: Advancing Global Health Security in Tanzania
Dr. Kunda John Stephen joins HRH2030 as a multisectoral health security advisor for the One Health Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) activity in Tanzania. One Health uses a multisectoral approach to enhance preparedness and response to emerging infectious disease outbreaks. Before joining HRH2030, Kunda served as a consultant with the Tanzanian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and worked with USAID, UNDP, DFID, and CDC on various public health issues.
- What inspired you to work in health?
When I was 12 years old, I began acting as a caretaker for my aunt who was quite ill at the time. This experience jumpstarted my interest in health, inspiring me to pursue a profession where I could help people in need of quality healthcare. As a result, I was motivated to receive medical training to pursue a career that saves lives. I was accepted to medical school at the University of Dar es Salaam where I earned my MD and subsequently my PhD in infectious disease epidemiology in Edinburgh, Scotland. After receiving my degrees, I went on to establish the Disease Surveillance System Plan (DSSP) for Tanzania and have worked extensively on the epidemiology of zoonoses, TB, and HIV/AIDS as well as in the area of psychosocial, maternal, newborn and child health, and reproductive health.
- What are some of the most significant challenges that health workers face in Tanzania?
A lack of medical infrastructure and a challenging workplace environment are the two major challenges that health workers face in Tanzania. Despite the fact that there are many highly skilled and well-trained health workers, there is a lack of medical infrastructure and equipment. This mismatch of skilled health workers with a lack of available medical equipment and supplies creates a challenge for Tanzania in maximizing the full capacity of its health workforce. The second major challenge that health workers face in Tanzania is negative politics in the workplace which interferes with workers’ motivations and output.
- What do you hope to improve in Tanzania’s health system?
I hope to transform the work ethic, culture, and mindset of health workers who are not motivated in their areas of work, and help drive them to be more passionate, committed, and understand their critical roles in improving the quality of life in Tanzania. I also hope to increase knowledge sharing among staff. In Tanzania, health workers tend to work in silos and do not necessarily share important data, achievements, or lessons learned with their colleagues which is a big missed opportunity.I strive to improve knowledge sharing and communication with One Health colleagues and among health workers to improve learning and collaboration to reach optimal solutions to health issues.
Photo: Dr. Kunda John Stephen joins HRH2030 as a multisectoral health security advisor for the One Health activity. He hopes to transform the work ethic, culture, and mindset of health workers in Tanzania.