DFID Health Portfolio Review – Supporting Health Systems

Approximately two weeks ago DFID published its Health Portfolio Review for 2009. The document gave an overview of what DFID have spent and done in improving health and saving lives among the world’s poorest people over the 2008-2009 period.  The report also gave an assessment of its achievements and made recommendations to increase the impact of their work and make it more cost effective.

DFID provides approximately £1 billion a year to improve health in developing countries. This represents 15 percent of the UK’s total development assistance.

From 2008-2015 the UK declared that it was committed to spend up to £7 billion to fight AIDS, TB and malaria. This includes a contribution of up to £1 billion to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. Under the new Coalition Government, we are still not certain how the commitments will be honoured as the Department is currently under review. Furthermore, under the DFID Business Plan 2011-2015, the outline given remains ambiguous and does not include DFID’s previous commitment to the Global Fund highlighted above.

The report reiterated and emphasised the support DFID gives to poor countries to assist them in delivering essential health services, especially those relating to maternal, reproductive and child health services and communicable diseases. The document specifically recommends that spending on maternal and neonatal health and nutrition be increased.

In addition, the report highlighted DFID’s track record in the promotion and strengthening of health systems and declared that priority should be given to supporting health systems. It stipulates their support for ‘progressive health financing’ including the ‘removal of user fees’, which DFID says would improve health service utilisation and saving lives. However, DFID admits that there is a gap to be filled as operational research is needed to support the delivery of these initiatives more effectively even as DFID seeks to provide technical assistance with financial aid.

Strengthening health systems increases the cost-effectiveness of all other basic health interventions. DFID is recognised as being strong in health systems research, but in 2007/08 DFID allocated only 5 percent of its research budget to this area. In moving forward, DFID recommended the UK uses its influence and ensures that entities such as the World Bank track their spending on health systems strengthening. The report states that DFID prioritises the health of the poor and places emphasis on programs for expanding access to basic health services. Similarly, DFID’s ability to influence others to follow best practice is critical in maximising impact.

To read the entire report visit the DFID Report page.

RESULTS UK has been advocating for the UK government to lead the charge on influencing donors to support the removal of user fees to access health service in poor countries. Please read our Action page to see how you can help. We will continue to monitor the International Aid Review process as it unfolds.

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