Global Health Impact: Good Governance Strengthens Health Systems

Global Health Impact: Good Governance Strengthens Health Systems

{Photo credit: Katy Doyle/MSH, West Africa}Photo credit: Katy Doyle/MSH, West Africa

The following blog post is a web-formatted version of MSH's Global Health Impact newsletter (June 2015 edition), Good Governance Strengthens Health Systems. We welcome your questions and feedback in the comments. Get Global Health Impact in your inbox


by James A. Rice, PhD

What do we mean by governance? Governance is a structured process used by a group of people—often referred to as a governing body, board, or council—to make decisions about policy, plans, and rules of collective action for an organization or system. For health organizations, the focus of this collective action is strengthening health systems to expand access to quality health services and achieve sustainable gains in health outcomes.

Is governance the same as leadership and management? No. But smart leaders invest time to develop smart governing bodies. Smart governing bodies create the conditions in which health workers and program managers are more likely to secure the medicines, staff, equipment, supplies, and facilities they need to save lives and improve health. But, the work of governing bodies does not happen automatically.

Good governance is more likely realized when those who lead, manage, and deliver health services make a personal commitment to understand and demand it by exploring the many facets of good and poor governance, embracing good governance, and combating poor governance. We call this intentional governance.

I blog more about how intentional governance supports health workers, systems, and outcomes here

Management Sciences for Health (MSH) is supporting intentional governance among governing bodies at national and sub-national levels of the health system around the globe, from Afghanistan village health councils (shuras) to sub-national governing bodies in Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, and the multinational West African Health Organization, among others.

This newsletter showcases some of these examples and provides tools and resources for you to start utilizing smarter, intentional governance today. By designing and institutionalizing smart governance practices, health organizations and health systems can perform better and deliver sustainable gains in health outcomes -- saving the lives of the most vulnerable women, children, and men.

Join us in the journey toward good governance for better health outcomes!

~ James A. Rice, PhD, Global Technical Lead, Governance


A “Matter of Life and Death”: Health Governance in Ethiopia

[Jemal Mohammed  gives opening remarks during a final results presentation workshop at Black Lion Teaching Hospital in Addis Ababa.] {Photo credit: MSH staff}Jemal Mohammed gives opening remarks during a final results presentation workshop at Black Lion Teaching Hospital in Addis Ababa.Photo credit: MSH staff

Jemal Mohammed has worked in the global health sector for 21 years — more than seven of those at MSH — dedicating his career to working on sustainable health interventions that can improve entire health systems.

As country project director of USAID's Leadership, Management, and Governance (LMG) Project in Ethiopia, Jemal works with health leaders, managers, and policymakers to help ensure that investments in leadership, management, and governance lead to stronger health systems. More from Ethiopia


Good Governance Improves Women's Health in Afghanistan: One Village’s Story

[Good Governance Improves Health in Afghanistan: One Village’s Story] {Photo: Jawad Jalali/Afghan Eyes}Good Governance Improves Health in Afghanistan: One Village’s StoryPhoto: Jawad Jalali/Afghan Eyes A training on governance empowered an Afghanistan village health council (shura) to understand their role and responsibility as the community's governing body to intervene to improve access to and quality of health services for women. When the shura realized women weren't going to the clinic because it didn't have a female doctor, they intervened. More from Afghanistan

Promoting Effective Board Governance for NGOs in Uganda

{Photo credit: Rui Pires}Photo credit: Rui Pires Examples of MSH’s work helping executive boards of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Uganda improve governance. More from Uganda

Good Governance Will Improve West African Health Systems

{Photo credit: Katy Doyle/MSH}Photo credit: Katy Doyle/MSH The Leadership, Management & Governance (LMG) Project, funded by USAID and led by MSH, is helping the West African Health Organization (WAHO) and its member countries improve their governance, which will improve the performance of the region’s health systems and, ultimately, help prevent future epidemics. More from West Africa

Six Lessons Learned From ‘Unleashing the Power of Good Governance’

{Photo: Warren Zelman}Photo: Warren Zelman Ninety-three participants representing 75 organizations from over 35 countries discussed challenges to good governance among public and civil society organizations, and how to overcome them. Here are six takeaways from this recent peer-to-peer and guided web-based learning. More

Tools and Resources

The Govern4Health mobile application demystifies health governance by providing practical tasks and activities for health leaders, managers, and those who govern. The app offers evidence on why governance matters, a tool to assess gender responsiveness, and tips on how to continually enhance governance. Download the app for iPhone or Android now.

Coming soon: This Summer, two new resources will be available: Leaders Who Govern, a digital resource to empower those who lead, manage, and deliver health services to be more effective governing; and a three-part governance course on USAID's Global Health eLearning Center. Stay tuned!