Resource allocation and health financing

Implementation research to improve quality of maternal and newborn health care, Malawi
Brenner S; Wilhelm D; Lohmann J; Kambala C; Chinkhumba J; Muula A; Allegri M: Bulletin of World Health Organisation 95(7), 491–502, 2017

This study evaluated the impact of a performance-based financing scheme on maternal and neonatal health service quality in Malawi. The authors conducted a non-randomised controlled before and after study to evaluate the effects of district- and facility-level performance incentives for health workers and management teams. The authors assessed changes in the facilities’ essential drug stocks, equipment maintenance and clinical obstetric care processes. The authors observed 33 health facilities, 23 intervention facilities and 10 control facilities and 401 pregnant women across four districts. The scheme improved the availability of both functional equipment and essential drug stocks in the intervention facilities. The authors observed positive effects in respect to drug procurement and clinical care activities at non-intervention facilities, likely in response to improved district management performance. Birth assistants’ adherence to clinical protocols improved across all studied facilities as district health managers supervised and coached clinical staff more actively. Despite nation-wide stock-outs and extreme health worker shortages, facilities in the study districts managed to improve maternal and neonatal health service quality by overcoming bottlenecks related to supply procurement, equipment maintenance and clinical performance. To strengthen and reform health management structures, performance-based financing may be a promising approach to sustainable improvements in quality of health care.

Sub-national assessment of aid effectiveness: A case study of post-conflict districts in Uganda
Ssengooba F; Namakula J; Kawooya V; Fustukian S: Globalisation and Health 13(32), doi: 10.1186/s12992-017-0251-7, 2017

In post-conflict settings, many state and non-state actors interact at the sub-national levels in rebuilding health systems by providing funds, delivering vital interventions and building capacity of local governments to shoulder their roles. Aid relationships among actors at sub-national level represent a vital lever for health system development. This study was undertaken to assess the aid-effectiveness in post-conflict districts of northern Uganda. This was a three district cross sectional study conducted from January to April 2013. Managers of organisations involved in service delivery were interviewed and asked to list the external organisations that contribute to three key services. For each inter-organisational relationship a custom-made tool designed to reflect the aid-effectiveness in the Paris Declaration was used. Three hundred eighty four relational ties between the organisations were generated from a total of 85 organisations interviewed. Satisfaction with aid relationships was mostly determined firstly by the extent managers were able to negotiate own priorities, by their awareness of expected results, and thirdly on the provision of feedback about their performance. Provider satisfaction was mostly determined by awareness of expected results and feedback on performance. These findings illustrate the focus on “results” domain and less on “ownership” and “resourcing” domains. The capacity and space for sub-national level authorities to negotiate local priorities requires more attention especially for health system development in post-conflict settings.

Current and future availability of and need for human resources for sexual, reproductive, maternal and newborn health in 41 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa
Guerra A; Nove A; Michel-Schuldt M; de Bernis L: International Journal of Equity Health 16(1) 69, 2017

The World Health Organisation African region, covering the majority of Sub-Saharan Africa, faces the highest rates of maternal and neonatal mortality in the world. This study uses data from the State of the World's Midwifery 2014 survey to cast a spotlight on the World Health Organisation African region, highlight the specific characteristics of its sexual, reproductive, maternal and newborn health (SRMNH) workforce and describe and compare countries' different trajectories in terms of meeting the population need for services. Using data from 41 African countries, this study used a mathematical model to estimate potential met need for SRMNH services, defined as "the percentage of a universal SRMNH package that could potentially be obtained by women and newborns given the composition, competencies and available working time of the SRMNH workforce." The model defined the 46 key interventions included in this universal SRMNH package and allocated them to the available health worker time and skill set in each country to estimate the potential met need. Based on the current and projected potential met need in the future, the countries were grouped into three categories: (1) 'making or maintaining progress' (expected to meet more, or the same level, of the need in the future than currently): 14 countries including Ghana, Senegal and South Africa, (2) 'at risk' (currently performing relatively well but expected to deteriorate due to the health workforce not keeping pace with population growth): 6 countries including Gabon, Rwanda and Zambia, and (3) 'low performing' (not performing well and not expected to improve): 21 countries including Burkina Faso, Eritrea and Sierra Leone. The three groups face different challenges, and the authors argue that policy solutions to increasing met need should be tailored to the specific context of the country and that national health workforce accounts be strengthened so that workforce planning can be evidence-informed.

Effects of payment for performance on accountability mechanisms: Evidence from Pwani, Tanzania
Mayumana I; Borghi J; Anselmi L; Mamdani M; Lange S: Social Science & Medicine 179, 61–73, 2017

Payment for Performance (P4P) aims to improve provider motivation to perform better, but little is known about the effects of P4P on accountability mechanisms. The authors examined the effect of P4P in Tanzania on internal and external accountability mechanisms. The authors carried out 93 individual in-depth interviews, 9 group interviews and 19 Focus Group Discussions in five intervention districts in three rounds of data collection between 2011 and 2013. The authors carried out surveys in 150 health facilities across Pwani region and four control districts, and interviewed 200 health workers, before the scheme was introduced and 13 months later. The authors examined the effects of P4P on internal accountability mechanisms including management changes, supervision, and priority setting, and external accountability mechanisms including provider responsiveness to patients, and engagement with Health Facility Governing Committees. P4P had some positive effects on internal accountability, with increased timeliness of supervision and the provision of feedback during supervision, but a lack of effect on supervision intensity. P4P reduced the interruption of service delivery due to broken equipment as well as drug stock-outs due to increased financial autonomy and responsiveness from managers. Management practices became less hierarchical, with less emphasis on bureaucratic procedures. Effects on external accountability were mixed, health workers treated pregnant women more kindly, but outreach activities did not increase. Facilities were more likely to have committees but their role was largely limited. P4P resulted in improvements in internal accountability measures through improved relations and communication between stakeholders that were incentivised at different levels of the system and enhanced provider autonomy over funds. P4P had more limited effects on external accountability, though attitudes towards patients appeared to improve, community engagement through health facility governing committees remained limited. Implementers should examine the lines of accountability when setting incentives and deciding who to incentivise in P4P schemes.

Interview: How do you quantify malaria’s economic damage?
China Global Television Network (CGTN) Africa, April 2017

Despite decades of interventions, malaria is still one of the biggest killer diseases in Africa continent. In 2015 alone, an estimated 429 000 people died of malaria according to the World Health Organisation, 90% of them in Africa. Beyond the lives lost, how much economic damage does malaria really do to sub-Saharan economies? That’s a question CGTN's Ramah Nyang explored in conversation with the CEO of the African Medical & Research Foundation.The drug RTSS prevents more than forty strains of malaria in toddlers. It is being rolled out to more than 300 000 children in Kenya, Ghana and Malawi in trials and more vaccines are being tested. It is unlikely that one vaccines will eradicate all malaria, but testing vaccines can significantly reduce the impact of malaria. Malaria was eradicated in Europe and America in the 1930s and many are asking why this cannot be done again in Africa.

Corporate taxation key to protecting human rights in the global economy
Centre for Economic and Social Rights: CESR, USA, 2017

In February 2017, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights – a UN human rights body – held a discussion of its draft General Comment on State obligations in the context of business activities. This General Comment – as an authoritative interpretation of States’ duties under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) – will fill an important gap in applying human rights law to situations of business-related abuses of these rights occurring within States’ territory as well as overseas. Corporate taxation remains an under-explored yet critical piece of the business and human rights puzzle, as confirmed by various participants in the discussion. Alongside the more direct ways businesses can adversely impact human rights (such as labor abuses, water pollution, etc.), the amount of tax corporations pay, and where they pay them, has profound human rights implications. As detailed in a factsheet co-authored by CESR, tax dodging by multinational copper firms in Zambia are estimated to amount to as much as $326 million annually, equivalent for example to about 60 percent of the country’s health budget. This raises governments’ responsibilities as State parties to international human rights treaties such as the ICESCR, and the phenomenon of tax avoidance and evasion. The ICESR General Comment early draft states that raising revenue through corporate taxation is an important part of the State’s duty to fulfil ESCR in its territory as the realisation of ESCR is dependent upon public resources that can, for example, pay for hospitals, schools and water systems. These resources will be raised from a variety of sources (including aid in some countries), but in all contexts progressive taxation is a lynchpin of public revenue raising. The report argues that those who can most afford to pay (including profitable multinational corporations and their executives and shareholders) must pay their fair share, and loopholes which allow them to escape tax should be closed.

Quality of Care in Performance-Based Financing: How It Is Incorporated in 32 Programs Across 28 Countries
Gergen J; Josephson E; Coe M; Ski S; Madhavan S; Bauhoff S: Global Health: Science and Practice 5(1) 90-107, 2017

This study describe how quality of care is incorporated into performance-based financing (PBF) programmes, what quality indicators are being used, and how these indicators are measured and verified. An exploratory scoping methodology was used to characterise the full range of quality components in 32 PBF programmes, initiated between 2008 and 2015 in 28 low- and middle-income countries, totalling 68 quality tools and 8,490 quality indicators. The programmes were identified through a review of the peer-reviewed and grey literature as well as through expert consultation with key funder representatives. Most of the PBF programmes were implemented in sub-Saharan Africa and most were funded primarily by the World Bank. On average, PBF quality tools contained 125 indicators predominately assessing maternal, newborn, and child health and facility management and infrastructure. Indicators were primarily measured via checklists which largely (over 90%) measured structural aspects of quality, such as equipment, beds, and infrastructure. Of the most common indicators across checklists, 74% measured structural aspects and 24% measured processes of clinical care. The quality portion of the payment formulas were in the form of bonuses (59%), penalties (27%), or both (hybrid) (14%). The median percentage (of a performance payment) allocated to health facilities was 60%, ranging from 10% to 100%, while the median percentage allocated to health care providers was 55%, ranging from 20% to 80%. Nearly all of the programmes included in the analysis (91%) verified quality scores quarterly (every 3 months), typically by regional government teams. PBF is argued by the authors to be a potentially appealing instrument to link verified performance measurement with strategic incentives and could ultimately help meet policy priorities. They also raise substantial variation and complexity in how PBF programmes incorporate quality of care considerations suggesting a need to further examine whether differences in design are associated with differential programme impacts.

The cost of free health care for all Kenyans: assessing the financial sustainability of contributory and non-contributory financing mechanisms
Okungu V; Chuma J; McIntyre D: International Journal for Health in Equity 16(1), 2017, doi: 10.1186/s12939-017-0535-9

In many developing countries where the majority of the population works in the informal sector, there are critical debates over the best financing mechanisms to progress towards UHC. In Kenya, government health policy has prioritized a contributory financing strategy (social health insurance) as the main financing mechanism for UHC. However, there are currently no studies that have assessed the cost of either social health insurance (SHI) as the contributory approach or an alternative financing mechanism involving non-contributory (general tax funding) approaches to UHC in Kenya. This study critically assessed the financial requirements of both contributory and non-contributory mechanisms to financing UHC in Kenya in the context of large informal sector populations, to provide estimates of financial resource needs for UHC over a 17-year period (2013-2030). The 17-year period was necessary because the Government of Kenya aims to achieve UHC by 2030. The results show that SHI is financially sustainable (that is expenditure does not outstrip revenue) within the first five years of implementation, but it becomes less sustainable with time. Modelling for a non-contributory scenario, on the other hand, showed greater sustainability both in the short- and long-term. The financial resource requirements for universal access to health care through general government revenue are compared with a contributory health insurance scheme approach. Although both funding options would require considerable government subsidies, given the magnitude of the informal sector in Kenya and their limited financial capacity, a tax-funded system would be less costly and more sustainable in the long-term than an insurance scheme approach. However, more innovative financing for health care as well as giving the health sector higher priority in government expenditure will be required to make the non-contributory financing mechanism more sustainable.

The imperative for systems thinking to promote access to medicines, efficient delivery, and cost-effectiveness when implementing health financing reforms: a qualitative study
Achoki T; Lesego A: International Journal for Equity in Health 16(53) 2017 doi: 10.1186/s12939-017-0550-x

Health systems across Africa are faced with a multitude of competing priorities amidst pressing resource constraints. Expansion of health insurance is being promoted in the quest for sustainable healthcare financing for many of the health systems in the region. However, the broader policy implications of expanding health insurance coverage have not been fully investigated and contextualised to many African health systems. The authors interviewed 37 key informants drawn from public, private and civil society organisations involved in health service delivery in Botswana. They aimed to determine the potential health system impacts that would result from expanding the health insurance scheme covering public sector employees. Study participants were selected through purposeful sampling, stakeholder mapping, and snowballing. The authors thematically synthesised their views, focusing on the key health system areas of access to medicines, efficiency and cost-effectiveness, as intermediate milestones towards universal health coverage. Participants suggested that expansion of health insurance would be characterised by increased financial resources for health and catalyse an upsurge in utilisation of health services particularly among those with health insurance cover. As a result, the health system, particularly within the private sector, would be expected to see higher demand for medicines and other health technologies. However, majority of the respondents cautioned that, realising the full benefits of improved population health, equitable distribution and financial risk protection, would be wholly dependent on having sound policies, regulations and functional accountability systems in place. It was recommended that, health system stewards should embrace efficient and cost-effective delivery, in order to make progress towards universal health coverage. Despite the prospects of increasing financial resources available for health service delivery, expansion of health insurance is reported to come with many challenges. They argue that decision-makers keen to achieve universal health coverage, must view health financing reform through the holistic lens of the health system and its interactions with the population, in order to anticipate its potential benefits and risks. Failure to embrace this comprehensive approach, would potentially lead to counterproductive results.

Adapting global health aid in the face of climate change
Gupta V, Mason-Sharma A, Caty S, KerryV: Lancet Global health Volume 5, No. 2, e133–e134, 2017

WHO estimates an additional 250 000 mortalities between 2030 and 2050 will be attributable to climate-associated increases in malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea, respiratory disease, water inaccessibility, and heat stress. Spillover effects on state and regional security are argued to be inevitable. The World Economic Forum has identified climate change as the single greatest threat to global stability because of its considerable consequences on the health and stability of developing nations. The complex interaction between climate change, health system burdens, and poor health outcomes, and their subsequent impact on politics, security, and society can be captured within the concept of a so-called climate-health-security nexus. Many of the world's poorest and most politically fragile nations lie at the centre of this nexus. Within this nexus, poverty, state fragility, poor pre-existing health outcomes, and high susceptibility to climate change converge to amplify the effects of future famines, droughts, and neglected tropical diseases. This amplification subsequently leads to worsened economies, social instability, and reliance on external support. The nations most at risk for climate-triggered health crises are primarily scattered throughout sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia and are already afflicted by the highest rates of disease burden globally (table, appendix). Notably, most of these countries are low-income nations without the resources to adequately contend with climate-related challenges.