Mr Alexander K. Abban, the Deputy Minister of Health, says Ghana has to adopt a health financing strategy that would propel the level of progress towards achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) by year 2030.
He said to achieve a breakthrough, there was the need to have a re-look at the subsidy base of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
The Deputy Minister, was speaking at the opening ceremony of the second WHO African Region training workshop in health financing, strategic purchasing and WHO CHOICE tool in Africa, in Accra.
Mr Abban stated that as countries in the region of Africa initiate reforms geared towards achieving UHC resources, it remained evident that increasing funds and removing financial barriers to access healthcare through prepayment and resource pooling, would not in itself achieve the needed coverage unless the resources are used efficiently.
This, he said, pointed to the importance of improving the strategic nature of the purchasing function of health financing, including the need to review the benefit package to guarantee essential service delivery response to citizen’s needs.
Mr Abban explained that purchasing strategically played a central role in driving health system improvements, considering the burden of diseases, levels of unmet health needs and the performance of service providers, ultimately contributing to making progress towards UHC and health Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The five-day workshop brought together international experts from the WHO Country Offices, as well as Ministries of Health and Finance respectively, and Civil Society Organisations from 22 Anglophone countries.
The objective is to build the capacities of African countries in Health financing for UHC, with particular focus on concepts of more value for money for the resources spent through Strategic Purchasing mechanisms, Benefit Package design and Health Technology Assessment.
Mr Abban said ensuring a successful design, implementation and review of the health financing reforms, including setting priority interventions for the population, was very much dependent on specific technical expertise and processes, which requires capacity building for countries, and further, a shared understanding of UHC for adequate and effective move towards the expected goals.
He said it was in this regard that Ghana welcomed the capacity building initiative by the WHO, saying strategic purchasing was one of the main principles guiding health financing reforms to accelerate progress towards UHC.
He said the objectives of strategic purchasing are to enhance quality in the distribution of resources, increase efficiency, manage expenditure growth and promote quality in health service delivery.
To achieve UHC, there is the need for capacity strengthening towards better health systems response, saying, collectively, “We need to emphasise the importance of information management systems as a critical backbone for strategic purchasing as well as on governance as an overreaching and cross-cutting function in order to align strategic purchasing reforms with other financial reforms.
Dr Owen Laws Kaluwa, the WHO Country Representative, noted that countries often struggled with the selection of suitable purchasing arrangement for their context, and how to ensure coherence in purchasing across multiple coverage schemes and purchasers.
Furthermore, efforts to move towards more strategic purchasing often faced political economy challenges and fail to be implemented, he said.
Dr Kaluwa said the workshop would ensure the impartation of knowledge from international experts from the WHO headquarters and African Region respectively to member countries, and open discussions on best practices, strengthening the capacities of participants to understand health financing for UHC, and policy concepts on strategic purchasing with emphasis on benefit package design.
It would also empower participants on how to use the WHO-CHOICE cost-effectiveness tool, appreciate the usefulness of the WHO Health Technology Assessment (HTA) tools in priority setting and decision making, as well as the critical appraisal and contextualization processes for existing cost-effectiveness studies.