‘We will likely conduct future courses in an online format’

ACCESS Health International, in collaboration with the World Bank and University of Edinburgh, recently conducted a workshop for policymakers which aimed at helping them manage markets to support public health outcomes. Siddhartha Bhattacharya, Country Director, ACCESS Health International gives more details about the course and its objectives, in an interaction with Lakshmipriya Nair

How did you hit upon the idea of starting a course for policymakers?

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Siddhartha Bhattacharya

Many state governments feel the need to engage with the private sector to support public health outcomes. However, engaging the private sector mandates a deeper understanding of the sector, an ability to negotiate better and to manage and maintain contracts. This requires a new skill set and set of tools for policymakers to analyse and engage private markets. Thus, the need for a course that addresses this.

Elaborate on curriculum of the course? What were the considerations while designing the course? Who has been involved in its creation?

The course was developed by experts at the World Bank and the University of Edinburgh in collaboration with renowned global faculty and ACCESS Health International as India partner. The curriculum introduces a market forces framework to analyse particular markets or submarkets in the health sector. The course talks about products and services markets and drug supply chain markets. It elucidates how markets function in various developing and Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, with specific case examples. The course introduces what measures governments take or can take to manage healthcare markets to improve public health outcomes. The course also details various economic, regulatory and financial policy tools that policymakers can use to manage and engage with markets.

How frequently would the course be conducted for the policymakers? What are its main objectives?

The curriculum and content is aimed at health policy practitioners working in low- and middle-income countries. It introduces participants to the Managing Markets for Health (MM4H) approach for analysing mixed domains within a health system. The course teaches participants how to formulate and test policies to steer market operation in a desirable direction – that is, in a direction that contributes to sustained health and equity outcomes. The course covers operational approaches for navigating the challenging path to harness market forces for health goals. Participants learn about successful and unsuccessful market steering initiatives. Participants work in groups to apply what they have learned to real world settings.

The curriculum and content aims to achieve three objectives:

  • Introduce a framework – comprised of market-aware analytics, external and indirect policy tools, and, consultative policy processes used to shift the operation of health markets in a desired direction;
  • Apply the new framework and its concepts to examples from developed and developing countries’ health systems;
  • Learn how to design health policies and support programmes, reflecting existing knowledge about how particular health markets operate and how they respond to particular policy tools.

What role does each partner play in this initiative?

University of Edinburgh and World Bank: Developed the core course and online course.

ACCESS Health: India implementation partner, local content and case study development. Garnering policymakers for the course and providing in depth technical support to the states as follow up activities for implementation of the taught concepts.

Is the course modelled on similar initiatives being conducted elsewhere in the world?

This is the first face to face policymakers course. More courses are in the planning phase, but will mostly likely be through online teaching.

What are the unique features? How would they serve to improve the healthcare scenario?

The course offers a wider perspective to healthcare planning and execution in mixed health systems where the private sector is fairly predominant in healthcare. It helps governments move from an exclusive approach, using only the public health delivery system for achieving public health outcomes, to a more inclusive approach, using both public and private health channels to achieve better public health outcomes. Using the private network appropriately is critical, especially in resource constrained environment such as India’s.

What are your learnings after conducting the course for the first time?

In the future, we need to create more contextualised case studies, build in more time for interaction among fellow policymakers and more time to discuss specific issues faced by policymakers in the states.

How will the course evolve in its future editions?

In addition to applying the learnings mentioned above, we will likely conduct future courses in an online format.

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