Everybody's business: strengthening health systems to improve health outcomes: WHO’s framework for action

Everybody's business: strengthening health systems to improve health outcomes: WHO’s framework for action

Strengthening the role of WHO in global health systems

It will be impossible to achieve national and international goals, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), without greater and more effective investment in health systems and services. The World Health Organization (WHO) faces many of the same challenges being tackled by countries. This document by WHO outlines a Framework for Action which aims to clarify and strengthen WHO’s role in health systems in a changing world. While reaffirming the technical agenda, this Framework concentrates more on how the WHO secretariat can provide more effective support to Member States and partners. There are four pillars to WHO’s response, each with its own set of strategic directions.

The first pillar focuses on promoting common understanding of what a health system is and what constitutes health systems strengthening. This involves six building blocks of a health system: good health services, well performing work-force, an effective health information system, medical products, vaccines and technologies, good health financing, and leadership and governance. The document outlines how the second pillar is concerned with health systems and health outcome programmes getting results. The Framework shows how extending existing interactions, and better and more systematic communication and awareness among all WHO staff on how to think systematically about health system processes, constraints and what to do about them will benefit this area. In addition, greater consistency, quality and efficiency in the production of methods, tools and data reporting across WHO is needed. The third pillar involves a more effective role for WHO at country level. The Framework identifies a need to improve capacity to diagnose health systems constraints and seek more active and consistent engagement in overall sector policy processes and strategies. The fourth pillar addresses the role of WHO in the international health systems agenda. A variety of recommendations are provided. These include that WHO must make greater use of existing staff by: strengthening their capacity in health sector policy and strategy development; developing a professional network of staff working on health systems; and getting a better match between supply and demand in specific policy areas.

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