A health system can be thought of as the set of resources and activities that work together to improve the health of communities.
Health systems include “building blocks” such as a health workforce, health facilities where services are delivered, drugs and technologies needed to provide care, information management systems, and the financing, leadership and governance structures needed to fund and manage the whole system. Underlying all of this are the people who use the health system. Their needs should drive the system to continually improve and evolve.
Governments that lack a functioning health system may struggle to deliver key health services or respond to health emergencies (which can happen during times of political instability or during a pandemic such as Ebola), even if medications and equipment are donated. Understandably, this sparks a sense of urgency to find other ways to deliver those services.
Sometimes, money is channelled to the private sector for service delivery, including to international NGOs (like HAI) and for-profit companies. In the quest to see progress, international donors often fund disease-specific and time-limited services. These programs may deliver results in the short-term, but they can lead to fragmented and inefficient health care and risk leaving communities without functional health systems the funding runs out.
We believe that governments are best positioned to provide high-quality, comprehensive health care to all citizens. That’s why our in-country programs involve close partnerships with ministries of health to support their efforts and improve care for all, especially the poor and vulnerable.
We advocate on other fronts to highlight the value and the potential of the public sector and the health workforce.
Our efforts include:
- Supporting public-sector health workers and reducing brain drain
- Leading efforts to promote and adopt the NGO Code of Conduct for Health Systems Strengthening among international NGOs, donors, and governments
- Shaping foreign aid and other funding policies to better support the public sector through international advocacy networks such as the Medicus Mundi Intenrational and the People’s Health Movement (PHM).