The East Central and Southern Africa Health Community in collaboration with Thanzi la Onse held its second Health Economics Community of Practice Meeting earlier this year. Hosted by the Mauritian Ministry of Health and Wellness, the two-day workshop brought together member states from Tanzania, Malawi, Kenya, Uganda, Eswatini, Lesotho, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mauritius to continue this process of knowledge exchange to support the use of health economics in aiding decision making in the region.
The ECSA Health Economics Community of Practice (COP) aims to provide an environment for health economists in the region within Government, academia and other nongovernmental organisations to share knowledge and experience of the challenges of designing and implementing resource allocation and advising policy-makers. The aim of this two-day workshop was to provide a forum for sharing of perspectives on key health policy issues in the region as well as provide training on health financing options, mainly focused on provider payment/purchasing mechanisms for health service delivery.
The meeting was opened by Mauritian Ministry of Health and Wellness representative, Director of General Heath Service Dr Sivalingum Ramen. In his opening address he expressed his support for the ECSA-Health Community in creating a regional Community of Practice (CoP) in health economics to strengthen research, capability building and policy engagement and translation. He highlighted that against a background of increasing demands on limited resources, health economics is exerting an influence on decision making at all levels of health care and yet there remains an unmet need across the region for applied health economics expertise. He added that a better understanding of topics and questions such as how demand and supply of health care interact to produce outcomes and affect spending, what influences health outcomes beyond health care – are at the heart of driving more effective health policy to accelerate gains in health.
As a part of the workshop, Thanzi la Onse researchers, Sakshi Mohan, Wiktoria Tafesse and Martin Chalkely led a course on Health Financing and Purchasing which introduced participants to key economics concepts under the revenue-raising and pooling functions of health financing and provided them with basis for understanding the impact of health purchasing on healthcare service delivery. Throughout the course, participants engaged in productive discussions led by TLO researchers Takondwa Mwase from HEPU, Malawi, and Freddie Ssengooba, Makerere University, Uganda, sharing their own country experiences on the sustainability and predictability of the current composition of revenue in their countries and the expected direction of evolution in the relative contribution of different sources, as well as purchasing arrangements.
Member states also expressed their interest in further training initiatives led by the ECSA secretariat, such as longer workshops with greater opportunities to discuss their own policy priorities and implementation experiences. Further, the member states commended the work of Dominic Nkhoma (Health Economics and Policy Unit (HEPU), College of Medicine, Malawi) and Aloysius Ssennyonjo (School of Public Health, Makerere University, Uganda) who shared the successes and upcoming developments of the Health Policy Units being developed in their respective countries. Both have begun creating strong links between their academic institutions and their Ministries of Health with the aim to increase the quality and quantity of health economics and policy research in the region. It is hoped that with continued support from country Ministries and the Center for Health Economics at the University of York the efforts of such initiatives will be replicated in other member states.
The next ECSA- HC and Health Economics Workshop will continue to support the development of applied health economics expertise with plans for our third workshop to take place in January 2021.