What conditions enable decentralization to improve the health system? Qualitative analysis of perspectives on decision space after 25 years of devolution in the Philippines.
ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND:Decentralization is promoted as a strategy to improve health system performance by bringing decision-making closer to service delivery. Some studies have investigated if decentralization actually improves the health system. However, few have explored the conditions that enable it to be effective. To determine these conditions, we have analyzed the perspectives of decision-makers in the Philippines where devolution, one form of decentralization, was introduced 25 years ago. METHODS:Drawing from the "decision space" approach, we interviewed 27 decision-makers with an average of 23.6 years of working across different levels of the Philippine government health sector and representing various local settings. Qualitative analysis followed the "Framework Method." Conditions that either enable or hinder the effectiveness of decentralization were identified by exploring decision-making in five health sector functions. RESULTS:These conditions include: for planning, having a multi-stakeholder approach and monitoring implementation; for financing and budget allocation, capacities to raise revenues at local levels and pooling of funds at central level; for resource management, having a central level capable of augmenting resource needs at local levels and a good working relationship between the local health officer and the elected local official; for program implementation and service delivery, promoting innovation at local levels while maintaining fidelity to national objectives; and for monitoring and data management, a central level capable of ensuring that data collection from local levels is performed in a timely and accurate manner. CONCLUSIONS:The Philippine experience suggests that decentralization is a long and complex journey and not an automatic solution for enhancing service delivery. The role of the central decision-maker (e.g. Ministry of Health) remains important to assist local levels unable to perform their functions well. It is policy-relevant to analyze the conditions that make decentralization work and the optimal combination of decentralized and centralized functions that enhance the health system.
Project description:BACKGROUND:The Philippines decentralized government health services through devolution to local governments in 1992. Over the years, opinions varied on the impact of devolved governance to decision-making for local health services. The objective of this study was to analyze decision-makers' perspectives on who should be making decisions for local health services and on their preferred structure of health service governance should they be able to change the situation. METHODS:We employed a mixed methods approach that included an online survey in one region and in-depth interviews with purposively-selected decision-makers in the Philippine health system. Study participants were asked about their perspectives on decision-making in the functions of planning, health financing, resource management, human resources for health, health service delivery, and data management and monitoring. Analysis of survey results through visualization of data on charts was complemented by the themes that emerged from the qualitative analysis of in-depth interviews based on the Framework Method. RESULTS:We received 24 online survey responses and interviewed 27 other decision-makers. Survey respondents expressed a preference to shift decision-making away from the local politician in favor of the local health officer in five functions. Most survey participants also preferred re-centralization. Analysis of the interviews suggested that the preferences expressed were likely driven by an expectation that re-centralization would provide a solution to the perceived politicization in decision-making and the reliance of local governments on central support. CONCLUSIONS:Rather than re-centralize the health system, one policy option for consideration for the Philippines would be to maintain devolution but with a revitalized role for the central level to maintain oversight over local governments and regulate their decision-making for the functions. Decentralization, whether in the Philippines or elsewhere, must not only transfer decision-making responsibility to local levels but also ensure that those granted with the decision space could perform decision-making with adequate capacities and could grasp the importance of health services.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Several studies on decentralisation have used the 'decision space' approach to assess the breadth of space made available to decision-makers at lower levels of the health system. However, in order to better understand how decentralisation becomes effective for the health sector, analysis should go beyond assessing decision space and include the dimensions of capacity and accountability. Building on Bossert's earlier work on the synergy of these dimensions, we analysed decision-making in the Philippines where governmental health services have been devolved to local governments since 1992.<h4>Methods</h4>Using a qualitative research design, we interviewed 27 key decision-makers at different levels of the Philippine health system and representing various local settings. We explored their perspectives on decision space, capacities and accountability in the health sector functions of planning, financing and budget allocation, programme implementation and service delivery, management of facilities, equipment and supplies, health workforce management, and data monitoring and utilisation. Analysis followed the Framework Method.<h4>Results</h4>Across all functions, decision space for local decision-makers was assessed to be moderate or narrow despite 25?years of devolution. To improve decision-making in these functions, adjustments in local capacities should include, at the individual level, skills for strategic planning, management, priority-setting, evidence-informed policy-making and innovation in service delivery. At institutional levels, these desired capacities should include having a multi-stakeholder approach, generating revenues from local sources, partnering with the private sector and facilitating cooperation between local health facilities. On the other hand, adjustments in accountability should focus on the various mechanisms that can be enforced by the central level, not only to build the desired capacities and augment the inadequacies at local levels, but also to incentivise success and regulate failure by the local governments in performing the functions transferred to them.<h4>Conclusion</h4>To optimise decentralisation for the health sector, widening decision spaces for local decision-makers must be accompanied by the corresponding adjustments in capacities and accountability for promoting good decision-making at lower levels in the decentralised functions. Analysing the health system through the lens of this synergy is useful for exploring concrete policy adjustments in the Philippines as well as in other settings.
Project description:<h4>Background and aims</h4>In line with the decentralization policy, in 2009, the central government of Burkina Faso issued a decree to transfer health resources to local governments for fulfilling their new responsibilities in health care provision. The first stage of this health care decentralization process involved the basic health care facilities, composed of primary health care facilities, maternities, dispensaries, maternal and child health centers, and essential drugs depots.This study seeks to explore the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) associated with the health resources transfer in Burkina Faso, from the perspective of decision makers.<h4>Methods</h4>We used a qualitative research approach. We conducted 17 semistructured interviews with 17 representatives of key decision-making groups, in August to December 2017 in Burkina Faso. The participants included mayors of municipalities, health district managers, policy decision makers, and donors/partners. The data collected were subjected to a directed qualitative content analysis, and the SWOT framework was used to select themes and codes for the analysis.<h4>Results</h4>The most cited strength was the improvement of local governance, which also creates the opportunity for an enhanced partnership and decentralized cooperation. As expected, however, the limited financial capacity of local governments is an important weakness. Furthermore, misuse of financial resources threatens the resources transfer. Recommendations to improve decentralization and health resources transfer included effective enforcement of decentralization's laws and policies, strengthening local governments' capacities, adequate funding, and evaluation of the resources transfer process.<h4>Conclusions</h4>An analysis of the preconditions for a successful resources transfer is needed to provide guidance to policy.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Persisting within-country disparities in maternal health service access are significant barriers to attaining the Sustainable Development Goals aimed at reducing inequalities and ensuring good health for all. Sub-national decision-makers mandated to deliver health services play a central role in advancing equity but require appropriate evidence to craft effective responses. We use spatial analyses to identify locally-relevant barriers to access using sub-national data from rural areas in Jimma Zone, Ethiopia.<h4>Methods</h4>Cross-sectional data from 3727 households, in three districts, collected at baseline in a cluster randomized controlled trial were analysed using geographically-weighted regressions. These models help to quantify associations within women's proximal contexts by generating local parameter estimates. Data subsets, representing an empirically-identified scale for neighbourhood, were used. Local associations between outcomes (antenatal, delivery, and postnatal care use) and potential explanatory factors at individual-level (ex: health information source), interpersonal-level (ex: companion support availability) and health service-levels (ex: nearby health facility type) were modelled. Statistically significant local odds ratios were mapped to demonstrate how relevance and magnitude of associations between various explanatory factors and service outcomes change depending on locality.<h4>Results</h4>Significant spatial variability in relationships between all services and their explanatory factors (p < 0.001) was detected, apart from the association between delivery care and women's decision-making involvement (p = 0.124). Local models helped to pinpoint factors, such as danger sign awareness, that were relevant for some localities but not others. Among factors with more widespread influence, such as that of prior service use, variation in estimate magnitudes between localities was uncovered. Prominence of factors also differed between services; companion support, for example, had wider influence for delivery than postnatal care. No significant local associations with postnatal care use were detected for some factors, including wealth and decision involvement, at the selected neighbourhood scale.<h4>Conclusions</h4>Spatial variability in service use associations means that the relative importance of explanatory factors changes with locality. These differences have important implications for the design of equity-oriented and responsive health systems. Reductions in within-country disparities are also unlikely if uniform solutions are applied to heterogeneous contexts. Multi-scale models, accommodating factor-specific neighbourhood scaling, may help to improve estimated local associations.
Project description:The World Health Organization (WHO) launched the OneHealth Tool (OHT) to help low and middle income countries to develop their capacities for sector-wide priority setting. In 2016, we sought to use the OHT to aid the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PHIC), the national health insurer of the Philippines, in decisions to expand benefit packages using cost-effectiveness analyses. With technical support from the WHO, we convened health planning officers from the Philippine Department of Health (DOH) and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PHIC) conduct generalized cost-effective analyses (GCEA) of selected un-financed noncommunicable disease interventions using OHT. We collected epidemiological and cost data through health facility surveys, review of literature such as cost libraries and clinical practice guidelines, and expert consultations. Although we were unable to use GCEA results directly to set policy, we learnt important policy lessons which we outline here that might help inform other countries looking to inform service coverage decisions. Additionally, the entire process and GCEA visualizations helped high-level policymakers in the health sector, who have traditionally relied on ad hoc decision making, to realize the need for a systematic and transparent priority-setting process that can continuously provide the evidence needed to inform service coverage decisions.
Project description:Large increases in health sector investment and policies favoring upgrading and expanding the public sector health network have prioritized maternal and child health in Mozambique and, over the past decade, Mozambique has achieved substantial improvements in maternal and child health indicators. Over this same period, the government of Mozambique has continued to decentralize the management of public sector resources to the district level, including in the health sector, with the aim of bringing decision-making and resources closer to service beneficiaries. Weak district level management capacity has hindered the decentralization process, and building this capacity is an important link to ensure that resources translate to improved service delivery and further improvements in population health. A consortium of the Ministry of Health, Health Alliance International, Eduardo Mondlane University, and the University of Washington are implementing a health systems strengthening model in Sofala Province, central Mozambique.The Mozambique Population Health Implementation and Training (PHIT) Partnership focuses on improving the quality of routine data and its use through appropriate tools to facilitate decision making by health system managers; strengthening management and planning capacity and funding district health plans; and building capacity for operations research to guide system-strengthening efforts. This seven-year effort covers all 13 districts and 146 health facilities in Sofala Province.A quasi-experimental controlled time-series design will be used to assess the overall impact of the partnership strategy on under-5 mortality by examining changes in mortality pre- and post-implementation in Sofala Province compared with neighboring Manica Province. The evaluation will compare a broad range of input, process, output, and outcome variables to strengthen the plausibility that the partnership strategy led to health system improvements and subsequent population health impact.The Mozambique PHIT Partnership expects to provide evidence on the effect of efforts to improve data quality coupled with the introduction of tools, training, and supervision to improve evidence-based decision making. This contribution to the knowledge base on what works to enhance health systems is highly replicable for rapid scale-up to other provinces in Mozambique, as well as other sub-Saharan African countries with limited resources and a commitment to comprehensive primary health care.
Project description:Policy Points: For more than 3 decades, international development agencies have advocated health system decentralization to improve health system performance in low- and middle-income countries. We found little rigorous evidence documenting the impact of decentralization processes on health system performance or outcomes in part due to challenges in measuring such far-reaching and multifaceted system-level changes. We propose a renewed research agenda that focuses on discrete definitions of decentralization and how institutional factors and mechanisms affect health system performance and outcomes within the general context of decentralized governance structures.Despite the widespread adoption of decentralization reforms as a means to improve public service delivery in developing countries since the 1980s, empirical evidence of the role of decentralization on health system improvement is still limited and inconclusive. This study reviewed studies published from 2000 to 2016 with adequate research designs to identify evidence on whether and how decentralization processes have impacted health systems.We conducted a systematic review of peer-reviewed journal articles from the public health and social science literature. We searched for articles within 9 databases using predefined search terms reflecting decentralization and health system constructs. Inclusion criteria were original research articles, low- and middle-income country settings, quantifiable outcome measures, and study designs that use comparisons or statistical adjustments. We excluded studies in high-income country settings and/or published in a non-English language.Sixteen studies met our prespecified inclusion and exclusion criteria and were grouped based on outcomes measured: health system inputs (n = 3), performance (n = 7), and health outcomes (n = 7). Numerous studies addressing conceptual issues related to decentralization but without any attempt at empirical estimation were excluded. Overall, we found mixed results regarding the effects of decentralization on health system indicators with seemingly beneficial effects on health system performance and health outcomes. Only 10 studies were considered to have relatively low risks of bias.This study reveals the limited empirical knowledge of the impact of decentralization on health system performance. Mixed empirical findings on the role of decentralization on health system performance and outcomes highlight the complexity of decentralization processes and their systemwide effects. Thus, we propose a renewed research agenda that focuses on discrete definitions of decentralization and how institutional factors and mechanisms affect health system performance and outcomes within the general context of decentralized governance structures.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>There are few reports on the effects of extensive decentralization of mental health services. We investigated the total patterns of utilization in a local-bed model and a central-bed model.<h4>Methods</h4>In a time-trend case-registry design, 7635 single treatment episodes, from the specialist and municipality services in 2003-2006, were linked to 2975 individual patients over all administrative levels. Patterns of utilization were analyzed by univariate comparisons and multivariate regressions.<h4>Results</h4>Total treated prevalence was consistently higher for the central-bed system. Outpatient utilization increased markedly, in the central-bed system. Utilization of psychiatric beds decreased, only in the central-bed system. Utilization of highly supported municipality units increased in both systems. Total utilization of all types of services, showed an additive pattern in the local-bed system and a substitutional pattern in the central-bed system. Only severe diagnoses predicted inpatient admission in the central-bed system, whereas also anxiety-disorders and outpatient consultations predicted inpatient admission in the local-bed system. Characteristics of the inpatient populations changed markedly over time, in the local-bed system.<h4>Conclusions</h4>Geographical availability is not important as a filter in patients' pathway to inpatient care, and the association between distance to hospital and utilization of psychiatric beds may be an historical artefact. Under a public health-insurance system, local psychiatric personnel as gatekeepers for inpatient care may be of greater importance than the availability of local psychiatric beds. Specialist psychiatric beds and highly supported municipality units for people with mental health problems do not work together in terms of utilization. Outpatient and day-hospital services may be filters in the pathway to inpatient care, however this depends on the structure of the whole service-system. Local integration of psychiatric services may bring about additive, rather than substitutional patterns of total utilization. A large proportion of decentralized psychiatric beds may hinder the development of various local psychiatric services, with negative consequences for overall treated prevalence.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>In 2001 Indonesia embarked on a rapid decentralization of government finances and functions to district governments. One of the results is that government has less information about its most valuable resource, the people who provide the services. The objective of the work reported here is to determine the stock of human resources for health in 15 districts, their service status and primary place of work. It also assesses the effect of decentralization on management of human resources and the implications for the future.<h4>Methods</h4>We enumerated all health care providers (doctors, nurses and midwives), including information on their employment status and primary place of work, in each of 15 districts in Java. Data were collected by three teams, one for each province.<h4>Results</h4>Provider density (number of doctors, nurses and midwives/1000 population) was low by international standards--11 out of 15 districts had provider densities less than 1.0. Approximately half of all three professional groups were permanent public servants. Contractual employment was also important for both nurses and midwives. The private sector as the primary source of employment is most important for doctors (37% overall) and increasingly so for midwives (10%). For those employed in the public sector, two-thirds of doctors and nurses work in health centres, while most midwives are located at village-level health facilities.<h4>Conclusion</h4>In the health system established after Independence, the facilities established were staffed through a period of obligatory service for all new graduates in medicine, nursing and midwifery. The last elements of that staffing system ended in 2007 and the government has not been able to replace it. The private sector is expanding and, despite the fact that it will be of increasing importance in the coming decades, government information about providers in private practice is decreasing. Despite the promise of decentralization to increase sectoral "decision space" at the district level, the central government now has control over essentially all public sector health staff at the district level, marking a return to the situation of 20 years ago. At the same time, Indonesia has changed dramatically. The challenge now is to envision a new health system that takes account of these changes. Envisioning the new system is a crucial first step for development of a human resources policy which, in turn, will require more information about health care providers, public and private, and increased capacity for human resource planning.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Health sector priority setting in Low and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs) entails balancing between a high demand and low supply of scarce resources. Human Resources for Health (HRH) consume the largest allocation of health sector resources in LMICs. Health sector decentralization continues to be promoted for its perceived ability to improve efficiency, relevance and participation in health sector priority setting. Following the 2013 devolution in Kenya, both health service delivery and human resource management were decentralized to county level. Little is known about priority setting practices and outcomes of HRH within decentralized health systems in LMICs. Our study sought to examine if and how the Kenyan devolution has improved health sector priority setting practices and outcomes for HRH. METHODS:We used a mixed methods case study design to examine health sector priority setting practices and outcomes at county level in Kenya. We used three sources of data. First, we reviewed all relevant national and county level policy and guidelines documents relating to HRH management. We then accessed and reviewed county records of HRH recruitment and distribution between 2013 and 2018. We finally conducted eight key informant interviews with various stakeholder involved in HRH priority setting within our study county. RESULTS:We found that HRH numbers in the county increased by almost two-fold since devolution. The county had two forms of HRH recruitment: one led by the County Public Services Board as outlined by policy and guidelines and a parallel, politically-driven recruitment done directly by the County Department of Health. Though there were clear guidelines on HRH recruitment, there were no similar guidelines on allocation and distribution of HRH. Since devolution, the county has preferentially staffed higher level hospitals over primary care facilities. Additionally, there has been local county level innovations to address some HRH management challenges, including recruiting doctors and other highly specialized staff on fixed term contract as opposed to permanent basis; and implementation of local incentives to attract and retain HRH to remote areas within the county. CONCLUSION:Devolution has significantly increased county level decision-space for HRH priority setting in Kenya. However, HRH management and accountability challenges still exist at the county level. There is need for interventions to strengthen county level HRH management capacity and accountability mechanisms beyond additional resources allocation. This will boost the realization of the country's efforts for promoting service delivery equity as a key goal - both for the devolution and the country's quest towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC).