The national health insurance (NHI) system that is envisaged for South Africa would be more akin to the excellent publicly funded health systems found in countries such as Costa Rica, where the NHI as a large, single purchaser of health services is able to improve resource use in the overall health system and to get ‘value for money’ for its citizens. However, services in South Africa’s public health sector are of poor quality at present. Actions that would be required to improve quality include: addressing health worker conditions of service through implementing the long-awaited occupation specific dispensation (or OSD); increasing staffing levels by at least 80,000; funding the maintenance and repairs of buildings, equipment and other infrastructure; and granting greater management autonomy to public sector hospitals to reduce red tape. Strong political commitment and genuine civil society involvement are essential to successful implementation.
Resource allocation and health financing
There is general agreement that donors made more progress in 2008 in terms of increasing aid to Sub-Saharan Africa than in 2006/7. While, in 2007, the G8 countries were significantly off track, the encouraging performance in 2008 demonstrates that if performance is maintained at the same level, most of the countries will meet the targets set for 2010, 2011 and 2013. But there are some, notably Italy and France, who will not deliver. Italy has so far delivered only about 3% of the US$8 billion it pledged in additional funding and may actually be planning cut, not increase, aid in the coming years. Developed countries can help by fast-tracking the process of debt relief under the Highly Indebted Poor Country Initiative (HIPC) Initiative. Donors can ensure that African Diaspora is protected from attacks and discrimination. Trade should be further liberalised in favour of the products of poor countries so that there can be compensation for any loss of aid. And the available resources should be invested in the most productive sectors so as to gain the highest return.
In January 2012, The UK’s Department for International Development announced a fivefold increase in its support for programmes to control neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). However, the authors of this paper point to a growing body of research that highlights hazards associated with current modes of implementing NTD control strategies, including undermining already-fragile health care systems, facing serious logistical problems and medical risks, and contributing in administrative failure. They draw on fieldwork in Uganda and Tanzania to shows that the specific political, economic, and social contexts in which mass drug administration (MDA) programmes are rolled out profoundly affects the uptake of drugs for the treatment of some NTDs. Average drug uptake in 2010 was well below 50%, an issue which remains unaddressed. The authors call for governments to deal with NTDs in a sustainable way that will involve a range of factors, including behavioural change, and promote an integrated bio-social approach, with more adequate monitoring and surveillance.
Hilary Benn of DFId calls for the global community to deliver better health for poorer people around the world.
In this speech to the World Health Assembly, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim outlines five specific ways the World Bank Group will support countries in their drive towards universal health coverage. First, he pledges the bank will continue to ramp up its analytic work and support for health systems. Second, he highlights the World Bank’s commitment to support countries in an all-out effort to reach Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5, on maternal mortality and child mortality. The third commitment is that, with the World Health Organisation and other partners, the World Bank Group will strengthen its measurement work in areas relevant to universal health coverage. Fourth, the Bank will deepen its work on what is called ‘the science of delivery’, a new field that the World Bank Group is helping to shape, in response to country demand. Fifth and finally, the World Bank Group will continue to step up its work on improving health through action in other sectors, such as agriculture, clean energy, education, sanitation, and women’s empowerment. Kim argues that the fragmentation of global health action has led to inefficiencies: parallel delivery structures; multiplication of monitoring systems and reporting demands; and ministry officials who spend a quarter of their time managing requests from misguided international partners. He calls for integrated management of health issues facing the world today.
The first round of consultations for the World Bank’s review of its procurement policy has been completed. Clear areas of contention between external funders, developing countries, and their private sector have arisen in the process on issues of domestic preferences and the use of developing countries’ procurement systems. The Bank has to decide whether it stands on the side of development and developing countries, or whether it stands for market orthodoxy and “business as usual,” argues the author of this article. For the most part developing countries and their domestic private sector argued that managing multiple external funding procurement systems with already limited capacity could be overwhelming. If the Bank wishes to demonstrate its commitment to development, it should support the use of domestic preferences, and live up to its international commitments by using country procurement systems as the default option. Furthermore, it should support developing countries in building transparent end effective country procurement systems and not undermine the policy space that these countries need to implement their development strategies and industrial policies. Eurodad supports calls from civil society organisations to initiate an independent review assessing barriers and how to effectively support small and medium-sized businesses.
In its annual World Health Report, the World Health Organization (WHO) shows how all countries, rich and poor, can adjust their health financing mechanisms so more people get the health care they need. It highlights three key areas where change can happen – raising more funds for health, raising money more fairly, and spending it more efficiently. WHO says that in many cases, governments can allocate more money for health. In 2000, African heads of State committed to spend 15% of government funds on health, a goal that three countries – Liberia, Rwanda and Tanzania – have already achieved. If the governments of the world’s 49 poorest countries each allocated 15% of state spending to health, they could raise an additional $15 billion per year – almost doubling the funds available, notes the report. Countries can also generate more money for health through more efficient tax collection, and find new sources of tax revenue, such as sales taxes and currency transactions. A review of 22 low-income countries shows that they could between them raise $1.42 billion through a 50% increase in tobacco tax. The report also cites the role of the international community, noting that most donors still need to allocate 0.7% gross domestic product (GDP) to official development assistance. Smarter spending could also boost global health coverage anywhere between 20-40%, the report points out, highlighting 10 areas where greater efficiencies are possible, including the use of generic drugs wherever possible – a strategy that saved almost US$2 billion in 2008.
Will leaders act now to save lives and make health care free in poor countries? On 23 September 2009 leaders met at the United Nations General Assembly in New York for a high-level event on health. On the table was a proposal to support at least seven developing countries to fully implement free care for women and children or to expand free health services to all, including Malawi and Mozambique. Oxfam recommends that governments of these countries make high-level commitments to introduce free health care for women and children and/or fully implement and expand free health care for all, as well as increase government spending on health to at least 15% of the national budget. The authors argue that the same commitments are required from rich country donors and multilateral aid agencies to provide additional long-term and predictable funding necessary to successfully implement free health care in all seven countries, and to officially extend the offer of financial and technical support for free health care to all poor countries who wish to remove fees and to make this event a global turning point in the fight to make health care free for all.
Zambia scrapped health fees on Saturday, one of the first benefits to flow from debt relief granted to African countries last year by the G8 group of wealthy nations. Many poor people across Zambia often die because they cannot afford health care and are forced to resort to ineffectual traditional remedies. This narrative depicts the impact of this abolition of user fees in the eyes of a Zambian man.
This document, by the Zambian Ministry of Health and PHRplus, summarises how the National Health Accounts (NHA) system was used to assess both general health and HIV and AIDS-specific spending in Zambia in 2002. The document also reviews health care use and borrowing patterns for people living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHA). Findings show that the private sector, including households, finance 15.3 per cent of HIV and AIDS spending, whereas the public sector finances 7.2 per cent. Findings also reveal that PLWHA spend 12 times more on health care than those who are not infected. Traditional healers were also found to play a major role as providers of health care for people living with HIV and AIDS.