Stronger Health Systems Critical to Sustainability, Country Ownership of PEPFAR

Paper highlights steps to strengthen health systems that support HIV, global health programs

Jul 17, 2012, 19:15 ET from Abt Associates

BETHESDA, Md., July 17, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- For the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and other global health programs to support the scale-up of new HIV prevention, treatment and care services, four key steps must be taken that strengthen health systems and promote sustainability and country ownership of HIV and non-HIV initiatives, finds a new paper "PEPFAR, Health System Strengthening, and Promoting Sustainability and Country Ownership," in a special supplement to the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes.

"To meet the ongoing challenges of the HIV epidemic, PEPFAR and other global health initiatives must recognize and respond to evolving health systems strengthening challenges at the national, local and service-delivery levels," said the paper's lead author Dr. John Palen, an expert in health workforce issues and a principal associate at Abt Associates.

The paper was released in conjunction with the International AIDS Conference, July 22-27 in Washington, D.C. Other co-authors on the paper include Dr. Ann Lion, vice president of International Health at Abt Associates.

The key to developing sustainable public health and health care delivery systems for HIV and other health needs is having well-functioning governmental structures at the national and local level with strong civil society organizations as a complement, and a robust private sector, the researchers write. To do this, development partners must provide capacity-building support and align resources with national government health strategies.

In addition, the global shortage of qualified health care workers, which is highest in countries heavily affected by HIV, must be addressed. Government capacity should be strengthened to implement policies and human resource practices that effectively deploy, manage and retain current and newly trained health professionals, according to the paper.

Third, expanding governments' ability to increase access to health services, as well as efficient resource allocation and program implementation, are necessary to create sustainable health systems. There is also a need for national, bilateral and multilateral partners to use economic and financial data to guide them in program planning and in developing systems that track program expenses and outputs.

Finally, advances in HIV-related diagnostic services and drugs have increased the need to identify and retain people who are infected with HIV in treatment and care programs. Health policymakers and service delivery managers should consider these implications when making investments in health systems strengthening activities.

"Stronger health systems have been critical to the scale-up of HIV services. There must be an ongoing effort to identify and implement strategic health systems strengthening activities and address the debate over investments in health systems to effectively address the challenges of the HIV epidemic," Palen said.

About Abt Associates
Abt Associates is a mission-driven, global leader in research and program implementation in the fields of health, social and environmental policy, and international development. Known for its rigorous approach to solving complex challenges, Abt Associates was ranked as one of the top 20 global research firms in 2011 and also named one of the top 40 international development innovators. The company has multiple offices in the U.S. and program offices in nearly 40 countries.


SOURCE Abt Associates