Sunday, March 8, 2009

Some definitions from introduction lecture + links

What is a health care system? The short definition by the WHO is :
"A health system consists of all the organizations, institutions, resources and people whose primary purpose is to improve health."

"A health system needs staff, funds, information, supplies, transport, communications and overall guidance and direction. And it needs to provide services that are responsive and financially fair, while treating people decently."

It is important to know that in most industrialized countries, the health care industry is one of the only industries projected to grow continuously, and quickly becoming one of the largest industries. It affects every person, and is perhaps the industry least affected by modern management.

For the WHO web sight on health care systems

The basic building blocks are :
  • Service delivery.
  • Medical products vaccines and technology.
  • Health workforce.
  • Health system financing.
  • Health information system.
  • Leadership and governance (stewardship).
What is Stewardship in health care systems?
"Stewardship is the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one's care. In the context of health systems, it involves influencing policies and actions in all sectors that may affect the health of the population. The stewardship function therefore implies the ability to formulate strategic policy direction, to ensure good regulation and the tools for implementing it, and to provide the necessary intelligence on health system performance in order to ensure accountability and transparency."

Equity -
Equity in health and access to health care are central themes in health system stewardship. Addressing inequity requires a comprehensive approach and action on wider social determinants on health.

Why health systems matter in addressing health inequities?

  • They can act to promote health equity both directly - through investing in population health interventions and health care delivery, and 'indirectly' - through individual and community empowerment and by protecting lower income groups from further impoverishment due to poorer health; and
  • They can act to promote health equity through influencing investment decisions and public policies across government - in a way that address the social determinants of health and reduces health inequities.
The WHO world health report from 2000 is an extensive overview of health systems, definitions, and trends.

Amsa's international health care systems primer is a short, readable informative document on health systems but only describes systems from the developed world.

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