Health Systems Strengthening

Health Systems Strengthening (HSS)

Strong leadership, governance, and management are the cornerstones of successful global, national, and local efforts to save lives and achieve the  maximum impact from health investments. Yet effective leadership, management, and governance skills and practices too often are the vital missing elements in public, civil society and even private health organizations. Fortunately, these skills can be developed. They are best developed working in teams, in one’s own setting, over time, while facing real challenges.

With our partners, MSH works to build capacity at all levels within public and private organizations to improve leadership and management practices. Improved capacity ensures sound governance policies, creates a work climate that supports staff motivation, increases flexibility, and realigns staff to focus on common, achievable objectives.

I recently visited Haiti and had the opportunity to meet with some local Haitian non-governmental organizations supported by MSH’s Santé pour le Développement et la Stabilité d’Haíïti (SDSH) project, as well as the central Ministry of Health, and departmental Ministry of Health offices. I was searching for information in an effort to learn more about how Performance-Based Financing (PBF) has affected service delivery in Haiti. The SDSH-supported facilities produce monthly service utilization reports that capture the important information, but I’ve been working to obtain comparable information on other facilities. My first thought was the Health Information System (HIS) Unit at the Ministry of Health (MoH).

Every day people are dying in the developing world because they cannot access affordable, quality medicines. Modern pharmaceuticals have revolutionized health care, but weak health systems prevent many people from accessing basic life-saving medicines. The health of men, women, and children can be dramatically improved throughout the world by enhancing access to and improving the use of essential medicines and other health care technologies.

Gaps in the management and availability of essential medicines and health commodities have been a constant weakness for developing countries. These gaps hamper the ability to access and distribute the pharmaceutical and medical supplies needed to treat infectious diseases. We have seen particular success in addressing pharmaceutical management challenges when interventions include: increasing access to products and services, improving the use of those products and services, promoting rational pharmaceutical use, developing public-private partnerships, providing thorough assessments and trainings, and improving procurement processes.

Dr. Belkis Giorgis, MSH's Gender Expert 

One hundred years ago on March 8, a handful of countries celebrated the first International Women’s Day. Today it is celebrated around the world as an opportunity to look back on women’s accomplishments and look forward to the realization of their full economic, political, and social rights. The United Nations theme for International Women’s Day 2011 is centered on women’s access to education, technology, and decent work.

For 40 years, MSH has promoted equal access to health care for women by strengthening health systems and building the capacity of women as leaders and managers, technical experts, clinicians, and community health workers. We interviewed Dr. Belkis Giorgis, our NGO Capacity Building/Gender Advisor in Ethiopia about women and development.

Why is International Women’s Day important?

Mobilizing communities in rural Benin to improve health.

The West African nation of Benin faces many challenges in achieving Millennium Development Goal 4---reducing child mortality. In the rural communities in Benin (91% of the population live in rural areas), access to health care and treatment is inadequate in relation to the vast need. Very few people have the appropriate skills and capacity to deliver care in these areas. The US Agency for International Development's (USAID) BASICS Benin project is increasing the capability of villages as far as 50 km away from health centers by training Community Health Workers (CHWs) to perform community case management of children five years-old and under.

Issakha Diallo, MD, MPH, DrPH

Part six of the blog series: Spotlight on Global Health Initiative Plus Countries Amid grave health statistics, the Global Health Initiative (GHI) brings hope of a healthier future in Mali.

Mali is one of the ten poorest countries in the world, ranking 173 out of 175 countries on the 2007 Human Development index of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Mali has highest percentage of people living on less than a dollar a day.  And, Mali has some of the worst demographic indicators in the sub-Saharan region: a population growth rate of 2.6%, a 6.6 fertility rate (the highest in the sub-Saharan Africa after Niger, at 6.8), and a birth rate of 49.8 per 1,000. The population is very young, with more than 50% of Malians under 15 years old and 17% under 5 years old.

Millions of people around the world die each year from preventable diseases because they cannot access affordable health care. Developing countries often struggle with insufficient resources and they face numerous challenges trying to strengthen weak health systems. A strong health system working well at all levels, from the household to the community to health facilities to national authorities, can provide effective services to improve the health of the people they serve.

Health financing is the critical foundation for strengthening health systems and ultimately for achieving health impact. Health financing is the starting point – money is the fuel to start and keep a strong health system running. Health financing includes generating funds, distributing those funds, ensuring effective and efficiency use of funds, and protecting the poor from the financial hardship of accessing health services. Without financial resources and proper management of these resources, health workers, health facilities, and medicines would not exist. In difficult economic times, generating those resources seems an insurmountable task. Yet some countries are showing how it can be done.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently endorsed a new and novel rapid test for tuberculosis (TB), especially relevant in countries most affected by the disease, and is calling for widespread use of this test and its incorporation into national plans.

MSH applauds the research and development experts who developed this new TB test and the WHO for endorsing it so quickly. The test could revolutionize TB care and control by providing an accurate diagnosis in less than two hours, compared to current tests that can take up to three months to produce results.

Evidence suggests that use of this test could result in a three-fold increase in the diagnosis of patients with drug-resistant TB and a doubling in the number of HIV-associated TB cases diagnosed in areas with high rates of TB and HIV. Finally, the test is easy and safe to use and also allows for testing in non-health facility settings, including in people’s homes.

The Global Health Initiative (GHI) and its approach of integrating health programs with HIV & AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, maternal, newborn, and child health, nutrition, and family planning and reproductive health is in line with the current approaches and health priorities of the Government of Malawi.

Malawi, with a population of slightly over 13 million people, has 83% of its people living in the rural hard to reach, underserved areas. The biggest health challenge facing the country is access to basic health services by the rural population. The problem of access to health services is multifaceted. For instance, family planning services are mostly facility-based, contributing to a low Contraceptive Prevalence Rate of 28% and high unmet family planning need of 28% (Malawi Demographic and Health Survey, 2004).

However, there is also a critical shortage of trained health service providers and availability of contraceptives is a logistical nightmare in Malawi. Making a routine mix of all contraceptives accessible to women of reproductive age regularly in rural communities can avert unwanted pregnancies and maternal deaths, and reduce high total fertility rate and infant mortality rate. Rural people walk long distances to seek health services, sometimes only to return without a service due to shortage of health personnel and stock-out of supplies.

Health Clinic in Southern Sudan

 

For the past week, we in Southern Sudan have crowded polling stations to vote on a referendum that, if passed, would declare Southern Sudan the world’s newest nation. Observers have declared the voting “broadly fair,” and the 60 percent voter turnout required for the vote to pass has been reached. We are optimistic that this referendum will bring us closer to a peaceful, prosperous future.

The mood in Juba (the capital city of Southern Sudan) is bright as we await the results of the polls, set to be announced February 1. But our government and people realize that secession will bring new challenges along with its opportunities. About 150,000 of our Southern Sudanese brothers and sisters have returned home in recent weeks and still more are expected. While we welcome them joyfully and are delighted to see extended families reunited, this great influx of people will put additional strain on a health system that already struggles to meet the needs of the people it serves.

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