SCI Foundation is now Unlimit Health. Learn more about what the change means for our ongoing efforts to eliminate neglected tropical diseases
Over the last twenty years, we have been working closely with partners in countries affected by neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).
Through these partnerships, especially with the ministries of health, we have shared knowledge and expertise and supported the delivery of treatment to tackle these diseases. We have done this through the existing health systems. As a result of this collaboration, we’ve supported the delivery of one billion treatments for schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminths since our establishment in 2002.
In light of our new strategy, we will continue our close partnerships with ministries of health, exploring wider opportunities where our skills, expertise and relationships can support and strengthen health systems in the countries we support.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines a health system as “all organizations, people and actions whose primary intent is to promote, restore or maintain health”. This definition is the most widely used and refers to the structures that need to be in place to support the goals of improving health and health equity, while removing financial barriers to health care.
This report also laid out the six building blocks that make up a health system: service delivery; health workforce; information; medical products, vaccines and technologies; financing; and leadership and governance (stewardship).
Health system strengthening (HSS) is defined as improving the six health system building blocks and managing their interactions in ways that achieve more equitable and sustained improvements across health services and health outcomes.
HSS requires both technical and political knowledge and action. It can be seen as a programme or project, but can also be a method of implementation, where projects are delivered in a way that supports the existing health system, empowering it through technical support.
Health system strengthening is important because it enables people to have access to quality health care services. It considers the whole system, making sure all aspects are working efficiently so that health programmes are supported and more effective. This is particularly important for NTDs, which disproportionally affect the most marginalised populations. Additionally, a strong health system can better respond to emergencies and outbreaks, which is critical for protecting public health.
Although HSS has been a cross-cutting theme in the NTD space for a number of years, the WHO roadmap highlights three key topics; mainstreaming, integration and coordination, which strengthen health systems when combined.
These themes have been identified through consultation and research, looking at the challenges of current NTD programmes, such as disease silos or programmes being externally funded and run outside of existing health systems. These work streams can impact both the national level system, by improving health workforce capacity, or the global level, through policy and advocacy. By having these themes outlined in the roadmap, organisations working on NTDs can align and support the health systems of endemic countries.
We aim to reinforce the work we have done to date within health systems and expand it to maximise the potential of our knowledge and experience to support our partners to eliminate NTDs as a public health problem. We have always worked with our partners and made a conscious decision not to have offices in endemic countries that would replicate or deviate away from existing health systems. We are looking forward to developing our approach, facing the current global challenges and allowing space to adapt to the specific needs of each context, with the aim of increasing the resilience of the health systems in the countries we support.
If you’d like to know more about health systems strengthening, please contact our HSS lead Carolyn Henry on firstname.lastname@example.org