We had the pleasure to have Dr. Izukanji Sikazwe, CEO of the Centre for Infectious Diseases and Research Zambia (CIDRZ), join our Board of Directors in March this year. We chatted with her about her career and all things health in Zambia.
“Something I want to see not just for Zambia, but for the whole continent, is access to Universal Health Coverage. And not just any services, but quality services.”, says Dr. Sikazwe.
Dr. Sikazwe studied to become a medical doctor in Zambia prior to specialist training in internal medicine and infectious diseases in the US. She loved being in the corridors of the hospital and seeing patients but quite organically her focus shifted to public health and research, and she has now been the CEO of CIRDZ since 2017.
When discussing health challenges and opportunities in Zambia, Izukanji mentions the young population as a great asset and potential for development across Africa, but that promoting a healthy lifestyle has taken a back seat where treatment is taking more space. She believes that the current access to information is both an opportunity and a challenge to promoting disease prevention initiatives.
“The increased access to information is great but also comes with a risk given the opportunity to utilize innovation to disseminate misinformation and myths that discourage uptake of proven prevention and curative initiatives. We need strong advocates to push important messages, such as political, religious and civic leaders, but also researchers and scientists to ensure key interventions or breakthroughs reach the intended populations”.
D-tree works closely with CIDRZ on the MySafeSpace app to give young people access to lifesaving HIV and sexual reproductive health information to protect themselves and others from HIV, unintended pregnancies amongst young women and to access testing and treatment services. A trusted source of information with the potential to impact young people’s lives. Dr. Izukanji proudly speaks about the impact the app has had so far, but that this could be more far-reaching.
“I’m really proud of MySafeSpace and young people now have access to essential information at their fingertips, but there is potential to do more and D-tree is bringing this technical expertise we need for this and also looking at how we can reach further populations”
Izukanji continues and shares how she believes digital innovations for health delivery and data management can improve health in Zambia. She brings up the healthcare provider perspective and the use of digital for education of healthcare providers across the county.
“Digital platforms allow us to collect, analyze and disseminate data in almost real-time, but we have struggled with doing meaningful analysis of it partly due to missing data elements and there is a lot of potential for us to do more in the area”
At D-tree, we are thrilled to have Dr. Sikazwe on our Board of Directors, bringing in important perspectives about providing healthcare in resource-limited settings.
“Technology offers the platform to go beyond what has been our usual reach and way of doing things. We now just need to figure out exactly how we can harness it to save lives in Zambia”
D-tree opened an office in Zambia last year. Read more about our work here.