Lessons learned from health sector reform: A four-country comparison

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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Various reforms have been undertaken to improve the functioning of health systems in developing countries, but there is limited comparative analysis of reform initiatives. This article discusses health sector reform experiences of four developing countries and identifies the lessons learned. The article is based on the review of background papers on Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia, and Tanzania prepared as part of a multi-country study on health sector reform. Findings suggest that decentralization works effectively while implementing primary and secondary health programs. Decentralization of power and authority to local authorities requires strengthening and supporting these units. Along with the public sector, the private sector plays an effective role in institutional and human resources development as well as in improving service delivery. Community participation facilitates recruitment and development of field workers, facility improvement, and service delivery. For providing financial protection to the poor, there is a need to review user fees and develop affordable health insurance with an exemption mechanism. There is no uniform health sector reform approach; therefore, the experiences of other countries will help countries undertake appropriate reforms. Here, it is important to examine the context and determine the reform measures that constitute the best means in terms of equity, efficiency, and sustainability.