Feature story

Advancing the health systems strengthening debate

04 November 2008

UNAIDS Executive Director Dr Peter Piot speaking at a session on the role of major stakeholders in strengthening health systems. Credit: JCIE

Representatives from G8 and non-G8 countries, international organizations, foundations and civil society are in Tokyo, Japan to further health systems strengthening. The International Conference on Global Action for Health System Strengthening took place from 3-4 November as a follow-up to the July 2008 Toyako G8 Summit. The conference aims to keep global health high on the agenda of G8 leaders and to develop a coordinated framework to better align global health initiatives.

On 3 November UNAIDS Executive Director Dr Peter Piot spoke at a session on the role of major stakeholders in strengthening health systems. In his presentation, Dr Piot elaborated on the impact of AIDS – and other disease specific programmes – on health systems in low- and middle-income countries. Dr Piot outlined how the AIDS response has bolstered weak health systems, such as through the provision of essential treatment, care and support services for people living with HIV. During his intervention, Dr Piot also underlined the need to improve coordination among international health partners, make existing money work more effectively, and secure predictable long-term funding.

One of the major constraints to addressing both the AIDS epidemic and global access to essential health care services is the serious shortage of healthcare workers. Insufficient healthcare workforce is the primary obstacle to the delivery of antiretroviral treatment and other HIV-related services in many countries in Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia. Many healthcare systems have poor availability and quality of pre- and post-test counselling, health education, home care, diagnosis and treatment of opportunistic infections.

The need for an active and more coordinated compilation of health information as well as the importance of sustainability and predictability of funding were also identified as two major areas for improvement in order to strengthen health systems worldwide. There is a need for a better global data monitoring that in turn will allow for a more effective use of the existing resources.

As the current holder of the G8 presidency, Japan continues to place health systems strengthening high on the agenda. It has encouraged the other member nations to provide full support in realizing greater action on the issue through the hosting of several high level meetings and formation of working groups to address priority areas of the health systems debate such as financing, information and data collection, and the workforce.

Japan has committed to ensuring a smooth transition of the health systems dossier to the next holder of the G8 presidency – Italy in 2009.

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Health workforce crisis limits AIDS response (29 february 2008)

External links:

G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit web site

Japan Center for International Exchange (JCIE)