Priority Programs

Priority Programs focus on better health outcomes; most of them even set specific outcome targets for their condition of interest. However, for the delivery of their interventions and for recording and reporting, programs depend in most places almost entirely on the general health services. Oversight, training and sometimes incentives are used to stimulate engagement of health workers and to strengthen program specific capabilities. Almost all priority programs use a similar approach in their interaction with health workers, and almost all require equitable, effective, efficient and accessible services close to their clients/patients to reach the number of people, the poor in particular, to attain their targets.

Since each priority program is so strongly committed to a specific condition they often tend to operate on somewhat of a stand-alone basis. However, programs can enhance intervention delivery much more effectively in Partnership, based on their shared interests. For instance, working together to coordinate training, to combine oversights and to pursue less demanding recording and reporting systems can substantially increase productivity of health workers. To initiate and foster that collaboration between programs requires Leadership, in particular from program officers at the global, country and district level.

Interaction between programs and the organizational units that design, plan and implement the general health services will also have more effect when programs operate together. After all, in many places, up to 80% to 90% of the clients/patients who contact the general health care services for the first time struggle with a complaint or symptom that is of direct interest to one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) programs. Thus, joining forces in that interaction can lead to better HRH Policy, or even impact other health system components, such as drug supply or laboratories, that are important as well for equitable, effective, efficient and accessible services.

Funding mechanisms focused on priority programs, such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM), The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and The GAVI Alliance, are increasingly aware that health workforce strengthening is key to their mission. These bodies therefore made funding available for health system and health workforce strengthening. It would benefit priority programs as well as the general health services if programs would collectively agree on the Finance priorities for health workforce strengthening in a given country setting.

In moving forward it is important to remain constantly aware of the Critical Success Factors. Some of those, such as “Results focused planning and practices” and “Knowledge-based decision-making,” are central to the work of Priority Programs. Others, such as ‘Donor alignment,” may require more deliberate attention with respect to the role that Priority Programs should play in health workforce strengthening and “System-linked alignment.”