Health and Finance Officials Tackle Improving Health Services and Outcomes

Fostering practical collaboration between health and finance officials is one of the unique objectives of the Ministerial Leadership in Health (MLIH) Program. To help institutionalize collaboration in budgeting and increasing the value of government investment in health, each year a subset of ministers participating in the MLIH program is invited to mandate a team of senior health and finance ministry officials to jointly develop a plan for increasing budget effectiveness, more efficient resource utilization and improving standards of health service delivery.

Given that on average about 40% of public health spending in countries around the world is wasted, getting more health for the money is a critical objective. More effective and efficient use of resources is also fundamental to better standards of health care delivery and outcomes.

In early November, more than 30 officials gathered in Johannesburg for an orientation program during which they engaged in initial high-level analysis of the perceived inefficiencies in their health delivery systems and quantified the impact of waste and inefficiency on their health budgets. Cote d’Ivoire, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, and Swaziland are expected to make up the 2015 cohort of MLIH Follow-up countries. Teams will next gather in late January for a week long program enabling them to detail and refine their country plans and develop a deliberate implementation strategy. Over 18-24 months, MLIH faculty and partners will provide technical support and implementation monitoring to enable the success of these initiatives.

Practically focused collaboration between health and finance officials does not occur spontaneously. As one senior Ugandan finance official exclaimed after a long day of discussion with his health counterparts, “I may not agree with you, but I understand you.”

Achievement highlights from the MLIH Follow-up countries over the past four years include Ethiopia’s Health Development Army instituting a national community-based health extension service (learn more about the Health Development Army here); Nigeria’s Saving One Million LivesMotorbike Ambulance program which mutated from an initial focus on polio vaccination to target all key health priorities and importantly link Federal budget allocation to performance by States against the key health indicators
(more details on Saving One Million Lives can be found here); and a low tech stretcher motorbike solution to health service access problems for expectant mothers caused by poor roads in remote parts of Rwanda.