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International Cooperation and Development

Strengthening health systems

Our work in the field of health is guided by the World Health Organization’s concept of ‘health systems strengthening’, which fosters national ownership of health strategies and ensures that our support is coherent and efficient.

Health systems strengthening (HSS) is a concept that has been defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as:

  • “the process of identifying and implementing the changes in policy and practice in a country’s health system, so that the country can respond better to its health and health system challenges
  • any array of initiatives and strategies that improves one or more of the functions of the health system and that leads to better health through improvements in access, coverage, quality, or efficiency”.

What we do

In line with aid effectiveness principles, we follow an HSS approach when supporting our partner countries in the field of health. This means that we help them reinforce their health system according to the 6 building blocks defined by the WHO:

  • Health service delivery – We help our partner countries provide quality health services in fit-for-purpose facilities.
  • Health workforce – We support them in training and hiring sufficient and qualified health workers.
  • Health information systems – We help them develop sound health information and spread it efficiently among their population.
  • Access to essential medicines – We help them ensure that everyone has access to essential medicines to an affordable price.
  • Health systems financing – We support them in defining adequate health financing policies
  • Leadership and governance – We make sure their health system is managed in a way that meets the needs of people, based on political commitment and accountable leadership.

HSS also involves striving for health security, by investing in preparedness, notably through the implementation of international health regulations (IHR), and coordination with emergency and humanitarian actors to avoid health services disruptions in conflict-affected areas.

National ownership is a key aspect of our support. It is crucial to us that national institutions hold the leading role in designing and implementing reforms aimed at strengthening their health system. They are in charge of adequate disease surveillance, decision-making processes, regulations, communications and response plans, for example. We are merely there to support them along the way.

Global partnerships

We also support the HSS approach when promoting for example aid effectiveness principles in global forums or health-related initiatives, such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria or the Global Alliance for Vaccines (GAVI). These two partnerships help partner countries reduce the disease burden and strengthen their own processes by responding to challenges posed by communicable diseases in a way that supports resilient and sustainable health systems.

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