About 30 senior health and finance ministry officials from four countries selected to participate in the 2014 MLIH follow-up phase met in Pretoria, South Africa for a week-long planning and strategy development program in late January. The MLIH follow-up phase aims to institutionalize the key aspects of value for money and more effective health system organization examined by ministers during the annual Health and Finance Ministerial Forums at Harvard.During the Pretoria Workshop, Harvard faculty, together with partners from the United Kingdom and Malaysia, facilitated an intensive process of problem analysis and priority setting designed to identify catalytic interventions to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of health budget utilization with the end goal of achieving better standards of health care delivery and outcomes. Joint health-finance teams from Cape Verde, The Gambia, Tanzania and Uganda crafted plans specific to the conditions of their countries and mapped out a detailed implementation strategy. The MLIH will continue to support these teams and track the impact of the health sector strengthening initiatives using patient satisfaction as the key indicator.
An independent evaluation of the Pretoria Workshop found that it succeeded in developing productive working relationships and closer collaboration between health and finance ministry representatives in the country teams. Health representatives gained better understanding of financial issues, budget reallocation and how to derive value for money in the face of constrained resources. Finance representatives gained insight into the role of public health (particularly primary health care) in national economic development and learned about the challenges facing their public health systems in terms of procurement, supply management and health worker productivity. Both health and finance representatives found root cause analysis a valuable starting point for strategy development and were persuaded of the importance of making efficiency gains in order to derive greater benefit from the available financial resource base.