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{Photo Credit: Warren Zelman}Photo Credit: Warren Zelman

This blog post was originally published on the SIAPS website on December 27, 2016.

It's been called the pharmaceutical sector, a drug supply or management system or the medical products building block. By any name, the part of a health system that deals with ensuring access to essential medicines, vaccines and medical products and their correct use–we call it a pharmaceutical system at SIAPS–is critical. Yet despite much research in the field on improving its performance and considerable progress towards strengthening its components, there is no apparent consensus on what constitutes a pharmaceutical system in all of its complexity.

In addition, there's no clearly defined framework for measuring progress in pharmaceutical system strengthening (PSS). That means that countries and donors lack complete information for guiding their investments in PSS interventions, and the tools and agreed-on measures to evaluate them.

Happy holidays and health on earth!

Envision a 2017 where everyone has the opportunity for a healthy life. Working together for stronger health systems around the world in 2017. Best wishes for the new year!

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{Photo credit: Tsion Issayas/MSH}Photo credit: Tsion Issayas/MSH

This post originally appeared on the Systems for Improved Access to Pharmaceuticals and Services (SIAPS) Program blog as, "UHC Day 2016: Strong pharmaceutical management boosts access to essential medicines".

On this day (December 12) in 2014, the global health community made a commitment to universal health coverage (UHC) throughout the world. Although progress has been made, more than one billion people still lack access to basic health care. Further, as The Lancet Commission report, Essential Medicines for Universal Health Coverage, said in November, most low-income countries lack structural access to even basic essential medicines.

Bridging this gap requires system-wide interventions, such as strengthening the role of government, better medicines regulation, promoting quality use, and more transparency and accountability. These activities can reap big benefits.

With a sound pharmaceutical system, “for US $1–2 per month, every person in low-income and middle-income countries can have access to a basket of about 200 essential medicines,” according to the report.

{Photo by Warren Zelman}Photo by Warren Zelman

We all have an unprecedented opportunity to make universal health coverage a reality.

As a founding partner of the Universal Health Coverage Day (UHC Day) Coalition, Management Sciences for Health is joining forces with the global health community and urging everyone to take action toward universal health coverage on December 12.

UHC Day is founded on the idea that no one should go bankrupt when they get sick, that universal health coverage is a smart investment and an achievable goal everywhere, and that it underpins our collective security and prosperity.

MSH is doing our part to make UHC a reality by:

{Free antenatal and postnatal services encourage women to seek care at health facilities. Antenatal visits are of particular importance for awareness and early screening for chronic illnesses, which can avert costly treatment and save lives. (Photo credit: Adam Kone)}Free antenatal and postnatal services encourage women to seek care at health facilities. Antenatal visits are of particular importance for awareness and early screening for chronic illnesses, which can avert costly treatment and save lives. (Photo credit: Adam Kone)

This article was originally posted on the NCD Alliance's website. 

A few weeks ago I visited a health center in Freetown, the main port city and commercial center in Sierra Leone, West Africa. The health center is one of few health facilities serving the city, located in an urban area that is home to an estimated 1 million people. The clinic offers free antenatal care during pregnancy as part of the government's commitment to ensuring health care reaches all citizens.

The risk of a woman dying during pregnancy has long been unacceptably high in Sierra Leone, a problem that only worsened when Ebola hit in 2014. According to the latest figures from 2015, Sierra Leone has the worst maternal mortality ratio in the world. It is estimated that the lifetime risk of death during pregnancy and childbirth is 1 in 17. The burden of newborn deaths is also among the world’s highest, with a newborn mortality rate of 35 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2015.

{Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, Director of the Pan American Health Organization, addressing the Fourth Symposium on Health Systems Research in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo credit: Health Systems Global)}Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, Director of the Pan American Health Organization, addressing the Fourth Symposium on Health Systems Research in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo credit: Health Systems Global)

Strong health systems can protect the poor and promote equity. That was the resounding main message at the Fourth Global Symposium on Health Systems Research, held in Vancouver, Canada, just a few weeks ago.

Policymakers, practitioners, and researchers at the symposium agreed: marginalized communities in low, middle, and high-income countries confront daily challenges that impede their health and lives. So experts called for global leaders to learn lessons both from poor and rich nations to address the inequities that exist in all communities. But a few other important themes echoed throughout the four-day event. And they are worth noting.

{Photo Credit: Matt Martin/MSH}Photo Credit: Matt Martin/MSH

 

On Friday, October 28, during the 47th Union World Conference on Lung Health, the Leadership, Management and Governance (LMG) Project, implemented by MSH, hosted an advance screening from The Lucky Specials, a movie demystifying TB. Accompanying the exclusive movie clips and animations, a dynamic panel discussion featured Catharine Taylor, Vice President, MSH; Aric Noboa, Producer, President, Discovery Learning Alliance; Laura Helft, PhD, Senior Science Researcher, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Allison Russel, MBBCh, Treatment Advisor, USAID RHAP; and moderator Rudi Thetard, Senior Technical Lead Infectious Diseases, MSH.

Lucky Specials Trailer

Photo Credit: Gwenn DubourthournieuPhoto Credit: Gwenn Dubourthournieu

On this World AIDS Day, we reflect on our global successes in scaling up HIV prevention and treatment efforts and averting new infections.

The “treat all” recommendation issued by the World Health Organization in 2015 was a critical milestone in the HIV response. Also known as “test and treat,” the recommendation expands antiretroviral therapy (ART) eligibility to include all people living with HIV, regardless of CD4 count, and recommends universal lifelong treatment.

This approach ensures that HIV-positive pregnant and breastfeeding women identified in antenatal care, during labor, or while breastfeeding, can benefit from the use of lifelong ART — also known as Option B+ — rather than starting and stopping treatment if they are ineligible upon cessation of breastfeeding, which is known as Option B.

The Option B+ approach simplifies treatment guidelines and prioritizes the health of pregnant women and mothers, and it has proven effective. According to UNAIDS, the number of new HIV infections among children has decreased by 56 percent globally since 2010.

{Photo Credit: Adama Sanogo/MSH}Photo Credit: Adama Sanogo/MSH
As we commemorate the international campaign"16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence,"  MSH reflects on our experiences working to prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls.

“We remember the hard times the women and girls of Douentza have experienced,” said Animata Bassama, a representative of the women of Douentza, referring to the fighting and ensuing gender-based violence (GBV) that plagued Mali in 2012.

Animata spoke to a crowd of 100 government officials, NGO representatives, health and finance officials, women’s advocates, and community members. A new center for GBV survivors, fortified by concrete and adorned in yellow and pink, was her backdrop. 

“And to the entire population of Douentza, we must unite in peace and understanding to effectively manage this center together,” she continued. 

In May 2016, the FCI Program of MSH, with funding from UN Women, opened a center next to the Douentza Referral Health Center to provide a safe space for GBV survivors to seek medical and psychosocial care, as well as temporary shelter.

{A woman at provincial health services department in Sri Lanka. (Photo Credit: Simone D. McCourtie/World Bank)}A woman at provincial health services department in Sri Lanka. (Photo Credit: Simone D. McCourtie/World Bank)

This article was originally published on Devex on November 18, 2016

As finance advisers in global health, we are regularly in conversations with health ministers in low- and middle-income countries who have been charged with the commendable but daunting task of achieving universal health coverage for their citizens.

In other words, they must ensure that all people obtain the health services they need without suffering financial hardship when paying for them, with special emphasis on serving the poor and disadvantaged. Our conversations often boil down to some key questions: How much will it cost, who will pay, and how do we ensure that funds are used effectively and responsibly?

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