Stakeholders call for sustainable health financing

Dar es Salaam. Health stakeholders have highlighted the importance of creating a sustainable and suitable health financing system, one that allows access to services according to needs and not the ability to pay.

Speaking at the ongoing 10th Tanzania Health Summit, some participants said the current health financing mechanism is difficult to track and creates competition among financiers.

National Professional Officer; Health Economist at the World Health Organisation (WHO) Tanzania Office, Maximilian Mapunda, said though health budget allocations have been increasing over the years, disbursement has been a challenge.

He gave an example of the 2014/15 and 2017/18 financial years, where disbursement was 57 and 59 percent, respectively.
The Health Summit goes with the theme Strengthening Health Systems for UHC, focusing on Primary Health Care.

Dr Mapunda said the theme is timely because Tanzania is working to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC) by 2030.
Primary Health Care (PHC) is a key component of UHC, as it provides essential health services to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay.

"Recently, there has been an increase in the improvement of primary healthcare, which has led to access,  now the problem is quality and efficiency thus, investing in primary healthcare is more efficient than tertiary as the current pools of funding do not make people access the needed services,” he said.

During the discussion under the topic Sustainable Financing Tanzania’s Health Sector on the Path of UHC, Dr Mapunda noted that in the 2016/17 financial year, domestic financing increased by 59 percent.

Director of Health, Social Welfare, and Nutrition Service at the [President’s Office Regional Administration and Local Government Authorities-PORALG], Dr Ntuli Kapologwe, said there is a serious need for value for money in health investments.

“We must focus on primary healthcare, including digitising primary healthcare,” he said.

According to him, Tanzania has slowly been moving from input-based financing to performance-based financing, which focuses on putting much effort into the quality of the services.

A Senior Economist from the World Bank Tanzania, Mariam Ally, said the multilateral financing institution has been supporting Tanzania on various health programmes, including pandemic preparedness.

Assistant Director at the Ministry of Health Lusajo Ndagile said the aim of establishing the UHC was to widen citizens’ access to basic treatment at all times. Currently, only 15 percent of the population has been covered.

He said the current mechanism for health financing faces challenges as it is difficult to track how much resources have been gathered at a time because some funds are challenged directly to the intended projects instead of coming to the basket.

“Sometimes we find ourselves competing for priorities. There is a need for stakeholders to sit down with the ministry to focus on key priorities,” he said.