With so many of the world’s best health systems being challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic, there has never been a more important time for clear and strategic health sector planning. And in the midst of the pandemic, Vanuatu – which has done an admirable job of containing COVID-19 –launched its National Health Sector Strategy 2021-2030. The Strategy, which is in line with the country’s National Sustainable Development Plan – sets out a vision for
…“A healthy population that enjoys a high quality of physical, mental, spiritual and social wellbeing through an effective decentralized health system with a primary health care focus, developed and strengthened secondary and tertiary health care and strong leadership to promote good governance practice at all levels of health services.”
To achieve this, the Strategy has six objectives. The first is to ensure universal health coverage (UHC) so that all Ni-Vanuatu, including women, youth, the elderly, and vulnerable groups, receive help when they need it and without undue financial hardship. There is a focus on strengthening public confidence in the health system and redesigning it to improve resilience to disease outbreaks, disasters, and climate change while improving the prevention, detection, and management of communicable diseases. The strategy also emphasizes greater promotion of healthy lifestyles, boosting health sector management capacity, and the importance of collaborative action and partnerships to meet the needs of the people of Vanuatu.
The completion of the Strategy is a testament to the efforts of Vanuatu’s Health Ministry. Our team at the World Bank has been proud to be supporting Vanuatu on this effort through the Program for Advisory Services and Analytics (PASA) and the Advance Universal Health Coverage Multi-Donor Trust Fund (Advance UHC MDTF).
As part of this work, a comprehensive assessment of Vanuatu’s health sector was undertaken by four government-led working groups, focusing on public health; inclusive health; hospital and curative services; and corporate services. The World Bank supported an analysis of Vanuatu’s Directorate of Corporate Services, which helped to inform the strategy’s fifth objective of increasing health sector management capacity.
Putting the Strategy into action
While the Strategy is a major milestone; the job is far from complete. We’ll continue to support Vanuatu on this important journey. Well-informed health system planning and budgeting will be crucial for successful implementation. Our team has supported the Vanuatu Ministry of Health’s efforts to strengthen its financial management processes, including through budget expenditure trend analysis to help identify budget limits during the annual budgeting processes. In 2018 and 2019, our team facilitated expenditure pressure notes that helped the Ministry identify spending pressures, while we also helped the government prepare a budget for pharmaceuticals that was used to inform Vanuatu’s 2021 health budget.
Partnerships to deliver real impact
There is no doubt that successful primary health care relies on strong relationships between individuals, communities, and health professionals joining forces for health promotions, policy development, and ensuring accountability; and the Health Sector Strategy rightly recognizes the important role of partnerships.
Similarly, cooperation between government and development partners is critical to ensuring assistance is targeted and effective. Speaking at the launch of the new Strategy, Vanuatu’s Health Minister, the Hon. Silas Bule Melve stressed the value of the Strategy in guiding both the government and development partners to work together to fulfill the health needs of the people of Vanuatu. To this end, one of the new indicators in the Strategy is to measure the percentage of new and existing partners that come in to support it.
Our team remains a committed partner for Vanuatu in meeting its health sector goals, and one that stands ready to support the new Health Sector Strategy for the coming decade, motivated by the idea of wan strong helt system blong yumi evriwan (a strong health system for everyone).