health financing

UHC Forward website (UHCForward.org)UHC Forward website (UHCForward.org)

Cross-posted from the UHC Forward blog

To support the efforts of countries that have committed to making substantive universal health coverage reforms, experts in many areas of financial protection must continually share in dialogue and debate.

To this end, the Results for Development Institute, in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation, is pleased to announce the launch of UHC Forward, a new website that tracks and consolidates key health coverage information from hundreds of sources into a one-stop portal with feature news, events, and publications related to the growing global universal health coverage (UHC) movement.

Over the past 25 years, the number of people worldwide with access to essential medicines has more than doubled. Yet more than 30 percent of the world’s population still does not have reliable access to essential medicines.

The future is indeed bright for public health in Nigeria, judging from what Dr. Muhammad Ali Pate, the Honorable Minister of State for Health of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, said at the Africare House in Washington, D.C. on September 21. The event, Innovative Approaches to Expanding Health Care Services, was co-sponsored by Management Sciences for Health (MSH), fhi360, the Anadach Group, and hosted by Africare.

My recent field visit has given me a great perspective on one of MSH’s major activities - the costing of health services. MSH has extensive costing experience in East Asia & Pacific, Latin America & the Caribbean, Southern Africa, and West Africa.

MSH developed and has helped manage multiple applications of the CORE Plus (Cost and Revenue Analysis Tool Plus). CORE Plus is a tool that helps managers and planners estimate the costs of individual services and packages of services in primary health care facilities as well as total costs for the facilities. The cost estimates are based on norms and can be used to determine the funding needs for services and can be compared with actual costs to measure efficiency.

Costing of health care services is a powerful exercise whose data and results can be used for a number of things. When the cost of a package of services is determined, the analysis can be used for practical purposes, such as planning and prioritization or allocation of funds based on known cost figures. Results from a costing study can also be used to set appropriate user fees or other prices linked to provision of services. Finally, results of a costing study can be used as an advocacy tool to ensure that appropriate funds are allocated for the package of services.

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.

At the First Global Symposium on Health Systems Research in Montreux, Switzerland in November, Dr. Yogesh Rajkotia, of USAID Rwanda, moderated a panel discussion noting that Performance-Based Financing (PBF) is an effective health systems strengthening strategy. The presentations were made on behalf of the Rwandan Ministry of Health with the guidance of Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, Permanent Secretary.

In 2000, Rwanda’s health system was perceived as weak: there were human resources shortages, especially in rural areas; poor quality of services; and a high morbidity/mortality rate of women and children. Since 2001, Rwanda has committed itself to better health and to pushing for achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) by 2015.

PBF is a powerful means for increasing the quantity and quality of health services by providing incentives to health providers to improve performance. A PBF program typically includes performance-based grants or contracts. Health clinics and their staff are rewarded for reaching or exceeding health indicators.

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