Unfortunately, the evidences of weakened and inefficient health systems are all around us. Perhaps fragmented information and multiple patient records will hinder a doctor’s ability to make the best diagnostic and care decision. If a program is under resourced, certain standardized care processes can be neglected. Family Health International explains that a health system is a complex organization, and so its performance will depend on man components and their interactions. In order to strengthen this complex of components in the health system, you must be able to identify issues that interfere with provisions of services and then introduce systems changes that will result in sustainable improvements (not quick fixes).
Before being able to address how to strengthen health systems, it may be wise to consider what factors make up a functioning health system. You can’t strengthen something you don’t understand. The World Health Organization has recently defined the six building blocks of a health system in their report “Everybody’s Business: Strengthening Health Systems to Improve Health Outcomes“:
1. Health services must be efficient, effective, and accessible.
2. A number of well-trained staff should be available.
3. Health information systems should generate useful data on health determinants and health system performance.
4. Access to medicines, vaccines, and medical technologies must be equitable.
5. Health financing systems must raise adequate funds for health, ensuring that people can access affordable services.
6. Leadership must guarantee effective oversight, regulation, and accountability.
Using these six blocks to first evaluate the health system of a community or developing country will better allow us to know where the greatest need for improvement is in the system and then better strengthen that aspect.
Take a moment to consider how your community’s health system compares to the six blocks. Are you provided with a functioning health system?