Consolidating lessons learned on improving financing health care for the poor at national level
This blog appeared in the April 2012 edition of the Financial Access for Health Community of Practice (FAH CoP) Newsletter.
In 2010 and 2011 Nigeria’s participated at HHA/IHP+ forum in Dakar Senegal, and Financing Access to MNCH community of practice meeting in Bamako, Mali respectively. Building on the learning from these events, and to institutionalize such events as learning platforms at the country level, the Government of Nigeria in collaboration with national and international stakeholders convened a national consultation on November 1 – 3, 2011 on the theme “Improving Financial Access to Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health Services for the Poor in Nigeria”.
Tailored along the HHA/IHP+ forum on Financing Health Care for the Poor that held in Dakar Senegal in 2010, and the COP Financial Access to MNCH services that took place in Bamako Mali in 2011, the national consultation represented the commitment of the Government of Nigeria to improving health financing especially targeting benefiting the poor by bringing together national actors at federal, state, and LGA levels to interact among themselves, and with external participants to expand the knowledge base, promote learning to inform the design and implementation of strategies.
The forum had four distinct but interrelated objectives, namely to: promote national experience sharing; learn from relevant regional and international best practices; articulate practical actions for taking forward the knowledge; and inform 2012 actions at the country level.
Guided by these objectives, the forum was structured to maximize discussions and interactions among the participants, and included plenary and concurrent sessions, as well as policy dialogue, with the topics organized around the following themes and sessions: status of universal health coverage and financial access for the poor – Nigeria’s experience; More Health for the Money; More Money for Health; and on emerging issues and action steps.
The forum attracted high level participation of policy makers led by Honourable Minister for Health, as well as representation of state governments and institutions such as the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), parliamentarians, Civil Society Organizations, media, and development partners in health. With technical facilitation by the African Health Economics and Policy Association (AfHEA) the forum came up with options for strengthening health financing for Nigeria with the overriding conclusion and commitment by stakeholders focusing on how Nigeria can improve efficiencies of existing funding, and at the same time mobilize additional resources to achieve its health financing objectives, and target the funding to benefit the poor.
The next steps and call to action were proffered around two broad areas, namely how to achieve more health for the money; and mobilizing more money for health, with steps and responsibilities of the different levels of government (Federal, State, and Local Government) spelt out (detailed report of the national consultation is still under preparation).
At the same time, a number of policy briefs are under preparation and will provide syntheses of the key messages to be used to mobilize responses and actions by the different levels of the government, and among stakeholders in the health sector. The messages from the consultation will reinforce ongoing initiatives and efforts by the government aimed at removing financial barriers to health care access, and the government’s push toward universal health coverage that have led to the establishment and implementation of programmes to improve access to MNCH services. Examples include programmes currently being funded separately using the Debt Relief Grants (MDGs) through the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), and by different state governments’ own resources, and which finance inputs related to MNCH services, and have included removal of user fees for these services.
Among other things, the national consultation is significant because it helped capture and rally the attention of a range of stakeholders to current and emerging thinking and innovation on health care financing. It has created broad-based sense of commitment to action by the different levels of government in Nigeria, and expanded the knowledge base on health financing issues that will be harnessed to guide future designs and implementation of health financing interventions. A web-based knowledge learning platform has been established and will have institutional linkages to allow post-workshop knowledge sharing, documentation and best practices sharing, and enable Nigeria to benefit from external information, and also contribute to knowledge management in the area of health financing for the poor.