22 August 2012

Rwanda: Rockefeller Foundation Supports a Center for Excellence in Health

The center of excellence for health systems strengthening was officially launched this Tuesday at the National University of Rwanda's school of public health, which provides an opportunity to bring together policy and decision makers, practitioners, public servants and teaching staff in the health sector with the mandate to contribute to the strengthening of health systems by accessing information and gaining a hands-on experience on health systems strengthening.

The center started operating in 2011, supported by Rockefeller Foundation, an prominent American philanthropic organization, with three main objectives in mind, as was pointed out by Collins Kamanzi the coordinator of the center.

"The first objective is documenting health systems strengthening activities and best practices in Rwanda and the region," he said.

The documentation which creates resources on health systems is very important, which is why the rector of NUR, Silas Lwakabamba, urged them to aim for high quality work as it will make it easier to disseminate the results far and wide, therefore creating knowledge.

The other two objectives are developing a research agenda, which is underway in collaboration with the health ministry, as well as contributing to capacity building at national and regional level in designing and studying health system strengthening approaches. The latter is achieved through trainings, workshops, seminars and study tours.

Kamanzi explained that the program of health systems strengthening was developed by the World Health Organization and has six pillars from which two are focused on at the center, namely health financing as well as leadership and governance in the health sector.

The one year of the center's existence has seen seventeen study tours by delegations from different countries, three main researches, infrastructural development as well as strengthening the school's academic program. The study tours are in line with the mandate by the health ministry to the center to handle requests from different countries that seek to learn from the country's experience with reforms in the health sector.

The country's best practices that have already been documented include health financing, community health workers and community based health insurance known as mutuelle de santé which is one of the two health insurance programs that were recommended by the WHO to be documented and exported.

Speaking at the event, Dr. Agnes Binagwaho remarked that having the center was a great opportunity. "It is not possible to have a good policy if there is no evidence to back it up," she said highlighting the importance of the researches to be conducted, adding that the program is improved even more by the fact that the people who come for training are seeking more knowledge on what they are already doing.

"You can have good policies, but if you don't know how to implement them properly it's all for nothing," said the Minister.

The center plans to develop further the concept of study tours through making follow-ups of the conducted visits to assess the impact realized from the tours. Plans to offer courses in the region and beyond for countries that need to learn health systems strengthening are also being considered in response to the need expressed by various visiting delegates.

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