We must deliver health aid efficiently

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Regarding the June 26 news story out of the Group of Eight summit "Reduction in funds for maternal and infant health criticized":

Reduced funding may be a blessing in disguise if it focuses the minds of all partners in the supply chain on the efficiency of aid funding, rather than the amount. Management of local service delivery institutions is typically the weakest link in that chain, and there is little doubt that a huge share of funding is wasted. Indeed, management education for health personnel is one of the pillars of the World Health Organization's Global Health Workforce Alliance.

Nairobi Hospital's turnaround and Hygeia, a major Nigerian health-care provider, are examples of how modest outlays for management training can improve outcomes. Both organizations used a business approach to improve health delivery with significant results. And a focus on leadership development in Egypt's Aswan Governorate contributed to a drop in the maternal mortality rate from 85 to 35 per 100,000 births over four years.

At a recent Nairobi meeting, nine sub-Saharan Africa management schools joined schools of public health, nongovernmental organizations and donors to form a consortium for health leadership and management education. Aid agencies, philanthropic groups and corporations should find this consortium a helpful tool in using scarce resources more effectively and view the downturn in aid funding as an opportunity to focus on increasing the effectiveness of health interventions.

Guy Pfeffermann, Chevy Chase

The writer is chief executive of the nonprofit Global Business School Network.

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Other aid groups may "slam the lack of financial assistance for a maternal and child-health initiative" at the G-8 summit in Canada, as the online headline of the June 26 news story said, but the Global Health Council, which represents almost 600 global health organizations worldwide, is not one of them.

Although we global health advocates will never get everything we would like, the $7.3 billion, five-year Muskoka Initiative takes us closer to the $30 billion needed to achieve Millennium Development Goals on child and maternal health. We welcome the initiative in the hope that the G-8 will catalyze other pledges and transform them into the collective action needed to save millions of lives.

The Post might have heard different, and more positive, reactions to this initiative if the Canadian government had given more access to civil society representatives like myself, who were segregated in an "Alternative Media Center" across the street from the main media center in Toronto.

David J. Olson, Washington

The writer is director of policy communications for the Global Health Council.


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