health systems

Discovering MSH blog series graphicOver the next couple of months, as MSH celebrates it's 40th anniversary, reporter John Donnelly and photographer Dominic Chavez will be traveling to several countries to report on MSH’s work in the field. The stories will go into a book due out in the fall on MSH’s 40 years in global health. This blog entry is a post from the road, to give a flavor of their experiences with MSH staff.

Dr. John P. Rumunu, MSH’s Chief of Party in South Sudan. © Dominic Chavez

 

This is a guest blog post written by Derek Lee from Pathfinder International.

The donkey cart ambulances were built by local craftsman.

On October 15, 2010, dozens of Kenyan women in bright headscarves gathered beneath the acacia trees scattered outside Balambala sub-district hospital.  The area chief was in attendance, as were members of the local women’s livelihood groups.  Despite the oppressive heat, everyone was in jovial spirits because this sunny day marked a momentous occasion for their “Care for the Mother” project.

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.

Malawi has some of the worst health statistics in the world, ranking 166 out of 177 countries. This is the result of HIV & AIDS, food insecurity, weak governance, and many human resources challenges. Health care vacancies range anywhere from 30-80%, and Malawi only has 252 doctors in the entire country. The health system is regularly plagued with stock outs of key medicines and supplies, as a result of poor procurement and distribution practices. Malawi has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world; the average prevalence for sub-Saharan Africa is 7.5%, Malawi has 12% prevalence in the adult population.

More than 50% of Malawi’s population lives further than 5 km from a health center.  Health care workers in the community, who are capable of providing essential health care services to those living in ‘hard to reach areas,’ are essential.  Meet the HSAs – Health Surveillance Assistants.

In March 2011, the CSIS Global Health Policy Center asked bloggers around the world: What should the key priority of the upcoming UN High Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases be and why? We had a number of great submissions.  Dr. Jonathan D. Quick was one of our four finalists.  Read his entry below and look out in the days and weeks ahead for other finalist's blogs and another blog contest on NCDs. 

This was originally posted on smartglobalhealth.org.

The most common NCDs are diabetes, heart disease, cancers, and chronic lung diseases. According to the World Health Organization, about 36 million people die each year due to NCDs, and a quarter of NCD deaths are of people aged under 60; 9 in 10 of these people are from developing countries. Breast cancer kills over 270,000 women in the developing world each year.

Political and social momentum has been building, as the United Nations High Level Meeting on NCDs approaches, for a change from emergency, disease specific responses to an integrated systems-strengthening response.

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.

Tukuls in the process of construction which will house midwives and PHCC staff, as viewed from Muni PHCC, (Muni Payam, Terekeka County, Southern Sudan)

Terekeka, a growing county and town just 60 miles north of Juba, translates as “The Forgotten” in the local dialect.  Just five years ago, this area was awash in violence, poised close to the frontlines of a civil war which resulted in the death and displacement of millions. Villagers and returnees began repopulating the area after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005, which heavily increased demand for health services. Today, Terekeka is heavily populated by southern returnees seeking refuge, land, and jobs, as well as internally displaced persons escaping nearby tribal violence.

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).

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.

Dr. Florence Guillaume, Deputy Chief of Party for MSH's Santé pour le Développement et la Stabilité d'Haíïti (SDSH) Project reflects on the year since the Haiti earthquake last January 12 in this video.

SDSH is a USAID-funded health project in Haiti supporting decentralization, strengthening public-sector capacity in service delivery, and supporting local nongovernmental organization service delivery.

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