What does ‘health systems strengthening’ mean? Experts weigh in.

  • Oct 26, 2016

Just what does “health systems strengthening” mean?

To Dr. Tonny Tumwesigye, it means meeting the needs of a growing and vulnerable population in Uganda and ensuring people have access to care.

To Peter K. Yeboah, it means promoting universal health coverage in Ghana.

And to Theresa Nyamupachitu, it means building and expanding partnership throughout Africa’s Christian health networks.

The experts shared these sentiments and more during a webinar on Oct. 21 coordinated by IMA World Health and Christian Connections for International Health.

Moderated by Matt Hackworth, Director of Communications for IMA World Health, the panelists discussed the roles faith-based organizations play in strengthening health systems, lessons learned and key achievements celebrated and how to establish and nourish effective partnerships.

Tumwesigye, the Executive Director of Uganda Protestant Medical Bureau, explained that some of the oldest hospitals in Uganda are part of the medical bureau and the government recognizes its place in health care delivery in her country.

Miss the webinar? Listen here.

The World Health Organization estimates that as much as 70 percent of the health infrastructure in Africa is currently carried about by faith-based organizations.

“Nobody else will serve the vulnerable as the church has been,” he said. “It can only be us. That’s why we need support.”

Yeboah spoke from the perspective of the Christian Health Association of Ghana, a highly respected organization in the west African country. Like Tumwesigye’s organization, CHAG hospitals primarily treat the poor and the vulnerable. In 2015, the CHAG network had 455,000 admissions, he said.

Nyamupachitu, Senior Program Advisor for Health Systems Strengthening for IMA World Health, said it’s important to note the faith community’s unique role in strengthening the health systems in Africa.

All the panelists agreed that building and expanding partnerships is important in reaching the people who are in hard-to-reach areas, the poor and the vulnerable.

IMA World Health plays an integral role in strengthening faith-based health systems by focusing on internal systems and infrastructure, such as data processing, data management and strengthening supply chains, Nyamupachitu said.

The webinar was part of an ongoing dialogue among the Christian health networks in Africa.

HSS defined by WHO

World Health Organization’s recommended six building blocks of HSS are:

  • improved health service delivery
  • health workforce development
  • information systems
  • access to essential medicines
  • health system financing
  • leadership and governance

These HSS building blocks help define the ideal capacity of a health system, and to prioritize key HSS issues, ensuring that it doesn’t leaves gaps in support. The approach facilitates a more comprehensive and sustainable approach to capacity building, increasing the government’s and communities’ abilities to sustain and own their health response.aHealth.