South Africa & Zambia Congressional Study Tour: Exploring the Health Impact of Capacity Building, Partnerships, and Country Ownership

South Africa & Zambia Congressional Study Tour: Exploring the Health Impact of Capacity Building, Partnerships, and Country Ownership

 {Photo credit: Bright Phiri/MSH}Delegates learn about pharmaceutical management from Systems for Improving Access to Pharmaceuticals and Services (SIAPS) Program staff while visiting Mokopane Hospital in Limpopo Province, South Africa.Photo credit: Bright Phiri/MSH

Management Sciences for Health (MSH) sponsored a Congressional Staff Study Tour to South Africa and Zambia in February 2015 to examine the local impact of US funded health capacity strengthening in Southern Africa. During the trip, site visits and meetings highlighted the impact of local health capacity building efforts in pharmaceutical management of essential medicines and HIV & AIDS drugs and technical and managerial development opportunities for community workers.  

The delegates, which included health and foreign relations staff from offices of US Representatives and the Congressional Research Service,  had packed schedules each day (Recaps: Day 7, Day 6, Day 5, Day 4, Day 3, Day 2, and Day 1).  Visits to Mokapane Hospital, the Limpopo Pharmaceutical Depot, Chilenje Clinic, Medical Stores Limited, and others offered delegates deep insights into the on-the-ground implementation led by local government or local NGOs. Delegates learned about the implementation of the Pharmaceutical Leadership Development Program (PLDP), Community Service Pharmacist program (CSP), RxSolution, and other pharmaceutical management and capacity building programs implemented through the US Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded, MSH-led Systems for Improving Access to Pharmaceuticals and Services (SIAPS) Program and Building Local Capacity for Delivery of HIV Services in Southern Africa (BLC) Project.

During the week, delegates also met with local health leaders and experts from US government agencies, the South African National Department of Health, the Zambian Ministry of Health, and local NGOs to discuss how international development funding, local government-led initiatives, and programs initiated by local partners have led to better health outcomes for communities.

As middle income countries, South Africa and Zambia offer a unique perspective into the impact of health systems strengthening and the increasing capacity of the national ministries of health to manage health delivery systems. South Africa showcased a growing network of civil society organizations and decentralized governments, which provided delegates with the opportunity to explore the unique benefits and challenges of decentralization. Zambia is at a critical stage of its development as it establishes its footing as a lower middle income country while taking on additional country ownership efforts in the health sector. 

Both countries are looking to create national health insurance plans to address the health service gap. Delegates were able to compare the two countries’ leadership successes, challenges and next steps as they examined each country’s efforts to build resilient and sustainable health systems.

More from the South Africa and Zambia Congressional Study Tour Blog:

Daily Recaps:

Katherine Pollak and Julie Galloway contributed to this post.

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