Paving the way to strengthening health systems

An important message from this year’s World Health Assembly has been the value of clear goals.  The progress that non-governmental organizations like GAVI Alliance and The Global Fund have made may be attributed to their focus and clear ambition towards immunization and vaccination.  Being able to identify a problem and give evidence to effective intervention not only makes the workflow smoother, but also attracts investment.  Being able to monitor the effectiveness of their interventions has allowed them to take steps towards the individual sustainability of nations and recognizes the holistic need for strengthening health systems.

Can the WHO and organizations battling non-communicable diseases use the same political capital to leverage smarter health investment?  The answer may not be as simple as implementing vertical action plans due to the nature of public and private partnerships.  The WHO’s lack of consensus regarding the involvement of Non-State Actors is an example of how the international community of Member-States do not trust vague language regarding the intentions of partnership with the private sector.  It cannot be certain that the ambitious post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals will have success without the proper financial tools.

There is a clear request by Member-States for more and better indicators.  If health systems are truly going to be strengthened, governments must be held accountable for their progress, or lack of progress as may be the case.  Issues like the disaggregation of female and male statistics show the need for public awareness and incentive for change.  Should governments have to do this alone, or is it more feasible to employ multiple sectors into the challenge?  Even NGOs that are successful at achieving their health goals need the assistance of the WHO and the media to recognize which problems need priority.  Funding cannot be simply taken away from low-income countries that are not complying with health system recommendations.  The momentum towards sustainability and accountability will need to come from the technical assistance of public, private, and civil society organizations.

Creating a universal map from the bottom up to include cultural elements is a large part of this politically charged conversation.  With clear targets and economic incentive, the post-2015 SDGs can gain traction.  The shift to middle-income classification will push many countries to become self-reliant.  The time may be coming for the WHO to either directly start holding nations accountable for their action plans, or partner with other groups that have clear vision on how to do so.

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